From Mary Shelley and Edgar Rice Burroughs to John Brunner, Frank Herbert and J.G. Ballard to Kim Stanley Robinson, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Octavia Butler.
Here’s the video of the talk I gave on Wednesday evening all about my relationship with reading science fiction. There are handy chapter markers if you want to jump around.
I like the way that Simon is liberating his data from silos and making it work for him.
What you see is the big map of a sea of literature, one where each island represents a single author, and each city represents a book. The map represents a selection of 113 008 authors and 145 162 books.
This is a poetic experiment where we hope you will get lost for a while.
The title says it all, really. This is another great piece of writing from Paul Ford.
I’ve noticed that when software lets nonprogrammers do programmer things, it makes the programmers nervous. Suddenly they stop smiling indulgently and start talking about what “real programming” is. This has been the history of the World Wide Web, for example. Go ahead and tweet “HTML is real programming,” and watch programmers show up in your mentions to go, “As if.” Except when you write a web page in HTML, you are creating a data model that will be interpreted by the browser. This is what programming is.
A very handy web component from Paul—this works exactly like a regular YouTube embed, but is much more performant.
My first reaction to this was nervousness. Of all the companies to trust with intercepting and rerouting page requests, Google aren’t exactly squeeky clean, what with that whole surveillance business model of theirs.
Still, this ultimately seems to be a move to improve the end user experience, and I’m glad to see this clarification:
Lite pages are only triggered for extremely slow sites, so we encourage developers to measure how well their pages are currently performing over slow networks.
Lite pages as a badge of shame (much like AMP in my eyes).
A great interview with Ted Nelson at the Internet Archive where he reminisces about Doug Engelbart, Bob Taylor, Vannevar Bush, hypertext and Xanadu. Wind him and let him go!
There’s an interesting tidbit on what he’s up to next:
So, the first one I’m trying to build will just be a comment, but with two pages visibly connected. And the second bit will be several pages visibly connected. A nice example is Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Pale Fire, which is a long poem by the fictitious author John Shade, connected to a large number of idiotic footnotes by the fictitious academic Charles Kinbote.
Ironically, back in the days of the Dark Brown Project, I actually got permission from the publishers of Pale Fire to demonstrate it on the Brown system. So now I hope to demonstrate it on the new Xanadu.
Pale Fire is the poem referenced in Blade Runner 2049:
Cells interlinked within cells interlinked…
This is a heartbreaking observation by Eric. He’s not anti-HTTPS by any stretch, but he is pointing out that caching servers become a thing of the past on a more secure web.
Can we do anything? For users of up-to-date browsers, yes: service workers create a “good” man in the middle that sidesteps the HTTPS problem, so far as I understand. So if you’re serving content over HTTPS, creating a service worker should be one of your top priorities right now, even if it’s just to do straightforward local caching and nothing fancier.
Here’s a treasure trove of eighties nerd nostalgia:
In the 1980s, the BBC explored the world of computing in The Computer Literacy Project. They commissioned a home computer (the BBC Micro) and taught viewers how to program.
The Computer Literacy Project chronicled a decade of information technology and was a milestone in the history of computing in Britain, helping to inspire a generation of coders.
Beneath the URL shorteners, the web!
It’s increasingly apparent that a more digitally literate citizenry would be good for a thousand different reasons. A great way to start would be to make URLs visible again, to let people see the infrastructure they’re living in.
Ben makes the very good point that template literals allow you to do a lot of useful stuff that previously would’ve required a library:
Template Literals afford a lot of power with no library overhead. I will definitely continue to use them when complexity of handlebars or similar is overkill.
Chris made a similar observation a little while back. Throw in a little script like lit-html and now you’ve got DOM-diffing too. You might not need insert-current-framework-name after all.
Kinda cool that these mini-libraries exist that do useful things for us, so when situations arise that we want a feature that a big library has, but don’t want to use the whole big library, we got smaller options.
I like a good em dash, me.
An initiative by David Brin and the Arthur C. Clarke Center For Human Imagination at UC San Diego. You are confronted with a what-if scenario, and your task is to recall any works of speculative fiction that have covered it.
Accessing more than a hundred years of science fiction thought experiments, TASAT taps into a passionate, global community of writers, scholars, librarians, and fans. We aim to curate a reading list applicable to problems and possibilities of tomorrow.
Six excellent mini essays from Lauren Beukes, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ken Liu, Hannu Rajaniemi, Alastair Reynolds and Aliette de Bodard.
I particularly Kim Stanley Robinson’s thoughts on the function of science fiction:
Here’s how I think science fiction works aesthetically. It’s not prediction. It has, rather, a double action, like the lenses of 3D glasses. Through one lens, we make a serious attempt to portray a possible future. Through the other, we see our present metaphorically, in a kind of heroic simile that says, “It is as if our world is like this.” When these two visions merge, the artificial third dimension that pops into being is simply history. We see ourselves and our society and our planet “like giants plunged into the years”, as Marcel Proust put it. So really it’s the fourth dimension that leaps into view: deep time, and our place in it. Some readers can’t make that merger happen, so they don’t like science fiction; it shimmers irreally, it gives them a headache. But relax your eyes, and the results can be startling in their clarity.
A fascinating bit of cartographic reverse engineering, looking at how Google has an incredible level of satellite-delivered building detail that then goes into solving the design problem of marking “commercial corridors” (or Areas Of Interest) on their maps.
Art. In. Spaaaaaace!
Orbital Reflector is a sculpture constructed of a lightweight material similar to Mylar. It is housed in a small box-like infrastructure known as a CubeSat and launched into space aboard a rocket. Once in low Earth orbit at a distance of about 350 miles (575 kilometers) from Earth, the CubeSat opens and releases the sculpture, which self-inflates like a balloon. Sunlight reflects onto the sculpture making it visible from Earth with the naked eye — like a slowly moving artificial star as bright as a star in the Big Dipper.
A lovely interactive photo essay charting the results of what happens when evolution produces a life form that allows a planet to take selfies.