Ariel and Lisa have redesigned the excellent Spacehack site and it’s looking stellar!
Absolutely brilliant stuff from Mandy (again). A long hard at today’s tech industry’s narrow approach to bots and artificial intelligence compared to some far more interesting and imaginative approaches in fiction:
- Ann Leckie’s superb Imperial Radch series,
- Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, and
- Alex Garland’s Ex Machina.
So in addition to frightening ramifications for privacy and information discovery, they also reinforce gendered stereotypes about women as servants. The neutral politeness that infects them all furthers that convention: women should be utilitarian, performing their duties on command without fuss or flourish. This is a vile, harmful, and dreadfully boring fantasy; not the least because there is so much extraordinary art around AI that both deconstructs and subverts these stereotypes. It takes a massive failure of imagination to commit yourself to building an artificial intelligence and then name it “Amy.”
Discover exotic places with local hosts in a galaxy far, far away.
The act of linking to this story is making it true.
“I don’t think there’s any law against this,” I said. How could there be a law against something that’s not possible?
The Buckminster Fuller Institute has put together this collection of resources which explain the ideas behind “comprehensive anticipatory design science.”
Seems especially relevant in light of the first issue of the Journal of Design and Science from MIT.
The legacy of the Black Mountain College lives on.
A brief history of lunar sci-fi.
No matter how much we want the science fiction dream to come true – and personally I would love it – the reality is that a lunar colony is very unlikely to ever be financially viable. It would be no surprise if we saw more expeditions to the moon, but all those wonderful visions of the high frontier recreated in space are more likely to apply to destinations with a better long-term future, like Mars, rather than the moon.
A new publication from MIT. It deliberately avoids the jargon that’s often part and parcel of peer-reviewed papers, and all of the articles are published under a Creative Commons attribution licence.
The first issue is dedicated to Marvin Minsky and features these superb articles, all of which are independently excellent but together form an even greater whole…
When the cybernetics movement began, the focus of science and engineering was on things like guiding a ballistic missile or controlling the temperature in an office. These problems were squarely in the man-made domain and were simple enough to apply the traditional divide-and-conquer method of scientific inquiry.
Science and engineering today, however, is focused on things like synthetic biology or artificial intelligence, where the problems are massively complex. These problems exceed our ability to stay within the domain of the artificial, and make it nearly impossible for us to divide them into existing disciplines.
This essay proposes a map for four domains of creative exploration—Science, Engineering, Design and Art—in an attempt to represent the antidisciplinary hypothesis: that knowledge can no longer be ascribed to, or produced within, disciplinary boundaries, but is entirely entangled.
The designers of complex adaptive systems are not strictly designing systems themselves. They are hinting those systems towards anticipated outcomes, from an array of existing interrelated systems. These are designers that do not understand themselves to be in the center of the system. Rather, they understand themselves to be participants, shaping the systems that interact with other forces, ideas, events and other designers. This essay is an exploration of what it means to participate.
As our technological and institutional creations have become more complex, our relationship to them has changed. We now relate to them as we once related to nature. Instead of being masters of our creations, we have learned to bargain with them, cajoling and guiding them in the general direction of our goals. We have built our own jungle, and it has a life of its own.
Everything you never knew you wanted to know about the Millennium Falcon, wrapped up in one unsurprisingly insanely detailed essay from Michael.
There’s that Acheulean hand ax again.
The first ever object to be designed by man 1.7 million years ago was a flint hand axe. Flint has the same molecular structure as a crystal and they both consist of silica. The project juxtaposes the flint hand axe with the latest crystal technology; Xero chaton the world’s smallest precision cut crystal measuring 0.6mm in diameter, smaller than a grain of sand.
Science fiction as a means of energising climatic and economic change:
Fiction, and science fiction in particular, can help us imagine many futures, and in particular can help us to direct our imaginations towards the futures we want. Imagining a particular kind of future isn’t just day dreaming: it’s an important and active framing that makes it possible for us to construct a future that approaches that imagined vision. In other words, imagining the future is one way of making that future happen.
But it’s important that these visions are preserved:
It’s very likely that our next Octavia Butler is today writing on WattPad or Tumblr or Facebook. When those servers cease to respond, what will we lose? More than the past is at stake—all our imagined futures are at risk, too.
A great piece of near-future sci-fi from James.
I enforce from orbit, making sure all the mainframes that used to track and store every detail of our lives are turned off, and stay off. And as the sun comes up over Gloucestershire this morning, there they are, resplendent in the mist-piercing light of RITTER’s multispectral sensors: terabytes of storage laid out around the scalped doughnut of the former GCHQ building. Enough quantum storage to hold decades of the world’s pillow talk. Drums of redundant ethernet cable stacked stories-high. Everything dismantled, disconnected, unshielded. Everything damp with morning dew.
This a magnificent piece of writing from James …all about pieces of metal fabric.
A single technology – the vacuum-deposition of metal vapour onto a thin film substrate – makes its consecutive and multiple appearances at times of stress and trial: at the dawn of the space age, in orbit and on other planets, at the scene of athletic feats of endurance, in defence and offence in the mountains of the Hindu Kush, on the beaches of the European archipelago. These are moments of hope as well as failure; moments when, properly utilised, technological progress enables us to achieve something which was beyond our capabilities before. And yet: we are still pulling bodies from the water wrapped in material which was meant to send us into space.
A terrific analysis of industrial design in film and games …featuring a scene-setting opening that delineates the difference between pleasure and happiness.
A really nicely put together sci-fi short film.
A subset of one of my favourite sites on the web:
Explore the Arctic of the past from the deck of a whaling ship.
Choose your vessel and get transcribing.
A fascinating detective story of the Enlightenment, told from a very personal perspective.
A wonderful sci-fi vignette from Matt.
A riotously great short story…
“It always comes down to that, doesn’t it?” said the voice in disgust, now circling around Tark. “Whether a successful Internet filmmaker can also be insane. Given that his quote-unquote insanity is also the fuel for his objectively measurable success as an entrepreneur. And whether it makes sense to judge him by the standards of talking dinosaurs from Mars.”
Translating Gender: Ancillary Justice in Five Languages Alex Dally MacFarlane | Interfictions Online
A fascinating look into the challenges encountered translating Anne Leckie’s excellent Radchaai novels into Bulgarian, German, Hebrew, Japanese, and Hungarian.
What is clear in all of these responses is that by examining the notions of ‘neutral’ and ‘feminine’ in grammar and gender through the lens of translation, we reveal their complexity – and some of their possible futures in languages, in both literature and speech.
A breathtaking overview of Cassini’s mission. The timeline video—matching up footage from Saturn with contemporary events on Earth—is a beautiful and haunting dose of perspective.
You can even watch a four hour video of every single one of the 341,805 images that Cassini has sent up till now.
It looks like this year’s Science Hack Day in San Francisco was particularly excellent.
Tantek told me about building a portable home planetarium—sounded like a blast.
We have made a radio reconnaissance of the star KIC 8462852 whose unusual light curves might possibly be due to planet-scale technology of an extraterrestrial civilization.
Nothing to report yet.
Gavin Rothery’s wonderfully grim and atmospheric short film.
This is something that has been bugging me ever since reading the book:
While Andy Weir does a good job of representing the risks faced by Mark Watney, stranded on Mars and confronting one life-threatening challenge after another, he is silent on the threat of radiation, not just to Mark but particularly to the crew of the Hermes as they contemplate executing a daring rescue mission that more than doubles their time in deep space.
Well, this paper answers all my questions.
A fascinating guest post by Brian McConnell on Centauri Dreams: what if there’s a galactic equivalent to the internet, allowing civilisations to communicate with a system analogous to packet switching.
Unfortunately this kind of focussed signalling would be hard to detect. But on the other hand, it could explain the Fermi paradox.
A short story by Ian McDonald set in the same universe as his new novel Luna: New Moon.
The most interesting anomaly uncovered by a Zooniverse project since Hanny’s Voorwerp.
Just like Nick, John Willshire has put his slides together with the audio from his gobsmackingly good dConstruct presentation on metadesign.
A collection of cli-fi and cli-fact.
I enjoyed chatting with Marcus and Paul on the Boagworld podcast …mostly because I managed to avoid the topic at hand by discussing sci-fi for half an hour before we settled to the boring stuff about work, business, and all that guff.
The best description of Mad Max: Fury Road. Read.
A handy way of quickly finding out how the weather in your area compares to the weather on Mars.
The next Neal Stephenson book sounds like it’s going to be great.
This web series is better than most big-budget hollywood films; witty, entertaining, and perplexing in equal measure.
A beautiful bit of design fiction.
A PDF of Clarke’s classic essay on the follies of prediction. From the 1972 collection The Futurists, edited by Alvin Toffler.
Primer, but Twitter.
Interstellar travel time dilation and status updates: a clever narrative combo.
A fantastic new site from Ariel and Lisa: a collection of probes that are out in space right now, with oodles of facts for each mission and links through to more resources. SCIENCE!
A beautiful website for ISS-based biology experiments.
A beautiful sci-fi short from the European Space Agency, inspired by the Rosetta mission.
This is quite amazing!
I remember getting up on Christmas day 2003 (I was in Arizona), hoping to get news of Beagle 2’s successful landing. Alas, the news never came.
For something that size to be discovered now …that’s quite something.
A short profile of Michael Moorcock’s Elric series (though, for me, Jerry Cornelius is the champion that remains eternal in my memory).
Airships in the atmosphere of Venus. More plausible than it might sound at first.
Curiosity’s journey so far, nicely visualised.
Tim Carmody on James Cameron’s meisterwerk (and technology in sci-fi films in general).
Scenes of space from sci-fi films.
This is an awareness project I can get behind: a Clarke-like Project Spaceguard to protect the Earth from asteroid collisions. This campaign will focus awareness of this issue on one single day…
Now if only the front page of this website actually said when that day will be.
Update: And now it does.
Typeset In The Future is back with another cracking analysis. This time—following on from 2001 and Moon—we’ve got Alien.
In her final recorded message before hypersleep, Ripley notes that she is the sole survivor of the Nostromo. What she forgets to mention is that she has not once in the past two hours encountered any Eurostile Bold Extended.
A vision of humanity’s exploration of our solar system.
We’re going back to the moon. With a robot. So we can take sublunarean samples.
You can help fund it on Kickstarter.
The UK Space Agency has a magazine called “space:uk” and you can download PDFs of back issues.
We can expect even more stunning images like these from Rosetta soon.
Queen of science fiction.
A warm-hearted short story about a moonshot. By Tom Hanks.
Elon Musk talks engineering, the Fermi paradox, and getting your ass to Mars.
This is a great summation of the origins of Science Hack Day from Ariel.
All the marvellous hacks from Science Hack Day San Francisco being demoed at the end of the event.
Mine is the first one up, five minutes in.
What a fantastic collection of creators!
A lovely hack from Science Hack Day San Francisco: get an idea of the size of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider by seeing it superimposed over your town.
It’s impossible to predict the creations that will spring forth when people gather in the spirit of participation, collaboration, and benign anarchy at the next Science Hack Day, but the results are certain to be inspired, and inspiring.
How the printing press led to the microscope, and chlorination transformed women’s fashion—Steven Johnson channels James Burke.
Beautiful visualisations of science and nature.
Made with love by a designer with a molecular biology degree.
This is basically porn for me.
Bernal spheres, Stanford tori, and O’Neill cylinders, oh my!
I’m not quite sure why this is funny, but I am quite sure that it is.
I remember reading Gia Milinovich’s reports from the set of the in-production Danny Boyle sci-fi film called Sunshine back in 2005. Then the film came out, exceeded my expectations, and became one of my all-time favourites.
Now the website—which was deleted by Fox—has been lovingly recreated by Gia. (And it’s responsive now.)
A nice bit of interactive citizen science storytelling from Google.
Note: if you have Adblock Plus installed, this won’t load at all. Funny that.
This year’s collection of twelve sci-fi stories from Technology Review features three dConstruct speakers: Lauren Beukes, Cory Doctorow, and Warren Ellis.
Photos from the first Science Hack Day in China which just wrapped up.
Design fiction from a NASA scientist.
This is quite exciting: the Endnote project is sponsoring Science Hack Day globally—not just an individual event.
A short sci-fi film from director Wanuri Kahiu set in the aftermath of a worldwide water war.
Alan Kay’s written remarks to a Joint Hearing of the Science Committee and the Economic and Educational and Opportunites Committee in October 1995.
Steven Johnson’s new television series will be shown on BBC in a few months time. Looks like it’s going to be good Burkian fun.
Documenting depictions of dystopian futures and tracking which ideas are turning out to be predictions.
A free PDF download from NASA on all things SETI, specifically the challenges of interspecies interstellar communication.
The campaign to restore out-of-print pulp sci-fi books in electronic formats.
Craig recounts the time we visited the LHCb at CERN. It’s a lovely bit of writing. I wish it were on his own website.
Eileen Gunn writes in the Smithsonian magazine on the influence of science fiction.
Science fiction, at its best, engenders the sort of flexible thinking that not only inspires us, but compels us to consider the myriad potential consequences of our actions.
I finally got around to reading Red Men by Matthew De Abaitua recently. It’s like Nick Harkaway crossed with Jeff Noon.
Here’s hoping that this short film will be developed into a full-length feature.
I can’t wait to see this documentary on the monumental work at CERN.
A lovely visualisation that combines two of my loves: space, and the correct use of the subjunctive.
I did some consulting with the Wellcome Trust on this new magazine-like project, and it’s great to see it go live—excellent stories of science, all published under a Creative Commons licence.
This fun-looking short film—funded by Brighton’s Lighthouse Arts—is screening at the Duke Of York’s Cinema on Saturday, March 1st followed by a panel discussion with the director and science-comedienne Helen Keen.
Okay, this might just be my new favourite blog:
This site is dedicated to all aspects of movie and TV typography and iconography as it appears in Sci-Fi and fantasy movies.
The first post is all about 2001, and the writing is just the right shade of fun.
I’m already looking forward to future posts. (See what I did there?)
A great series of articles on the sci-fi films of the ’60s and ’70s:
The Laser Age examines a rich period in the history of science-fiction filmmaking that began in the late 1960s and faded away by the mid 1980s.
…all wrapped up in a nice responsive design too.
This nifty place in Brighton is just down the street from me:
Our classes allow kids to get creative with exciting, cutting-edge technology and software.
Brian Aldiss: ‘These days I don’t read any science fiction. I only read Tolstoy’ | Books | The Guardian
A profile of Brian Aldiss in The Guardian.
I still can’t quite believe I managed to get him for last year’s Brighton SF.
This is a wonderful, wonderful round-up by KQED of the most recent Science Hack Day in San Francisco …a truly marvellous event.
Be sure to watch the accompanying video—it brought a tear to my eye.
This gives me a warm fuzzy glow. The Mefites are using Radio Free Earth to find out which stars are receiving the number one hits from their birthdays.
Wonderful photos from Science Hack Day San Francisco, courtesy of Matt B.