Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Altering vector


What with Google megacorp's intrusive new policies I've decided to slip into my spacesuit, climb onto my crotch rocket and blast off for the other side of the solar system. I was all set to start a new blog over at Blogetery, but before I could even make my first post the account was suspended and I got the message, "Sorry, but this blog has been marked as spam as defined in our Terms of Service." Can you beat that? So obviously it'll be awhile before I'm back online. So anyway, this blog is going into suspended animation. Thanks to the baker's dozen of you out there who followed it, and to any of you who just dropped by for a peek. Per aspera ad astra.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fly Me to the Moon

"All your base are belong to us!" 

In this latest episode of his weekly science show Explorations, Dr. Michio Kaku covers the danger of solar flares, the forty year struggle ahead of Japan to deal with the nuclear disaster, how global warming will bitch slap the U.K. (and Scotland, too), and welcomes special guest Dr. Michael Shermer to debunk conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, he doesn't touch on reactionary bully Newt Gingrich's recently declared dark dream of outer space imperialism. Gingrich, a politician who constantly demonizes "secular atheists", is blissfully ignorant of the irony of his naming Isaac Asimov, a signatory to the Humanist Manifesto, as an inspiration. Hopefully one day Earth will have a colony on the Moon -- an international colony established for peaceful, scientific purposes.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Danger, Will Robinson!"

Dick Tufeld, who was the announcer on Irwin Allen sf shows like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and The Time Tunnel has passed away. But what he will be best remembered for is his role as the voice of the Robot on Allen's sci-fi farce, Lost in Space. So what better way to commemorate his career than enjoying an episode starring the Robot?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Lunar New Year

"Best rollercoaster ever!"

Happy Year of the Water Dragon to all. May all your wishes for the year be fulfilled. As the old year goes out and the new comes in how about we celebrate with Rural War Room Radio's meandering mixture of melodies, the"Young & Old Show"?

Young & Old Show Part 01
Young & Old Show Part 02
Young & Old Show Part 03
Young & Old Show Part 04
Young & Old Show Part 05

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Non-Western Science

As you've probably noticed, I listen to a lot of podcasts. So many, in fact, that I get behind in my listening all the time. That's why I'm just now getting around to this episode of Against the Grain. It's an interview with the philosopher of science Sandra Harding discussing non-Western ways of thinking. I know there's a tenancy among some to dismiss this kind of thing out of hand as some kind of Lysenkoism, but I think there is some merit to this viewpoint. Also, I think it's germane to sf given that the Western scientific perspective is the one that informs most of the genre.

While it's a stimulating discussion, I do have to quibble with her use of the word "science" as a sweeping generalization. That term covers such a broad spectrum that it's about as specific as "footwear", which can mean anything from sandals to waders. So while the points she raises may be valid in relation to ecology or medical science, I don't see how they would be applicable to, say, research into superconductors.

And I also find it interesting that although she never actually uses the term her philosophical approach is very close to that of Pragmatism. It always amuses me how often people hold de facto Pragmatist views, often without realizing it. Like that time William James wrote to H. G. Wells after reading one of his non-fiction books and not only claimed him as a philosophical kinsman but also declared, "You're a pragmatist!"

Non-Western Science (49 mins, 37 secs)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Remember the bad old days when Star Trek fans were being threatened with lawsuits for using images of the show on their fan sites? Luckily that didn't last long, but things could get that bad again -- or even worse. Help stop internet censorship.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Conan's moon-face

This is good for a laugh. Conan takes on a fan and explains how his set's moon can be in front of the clouds. But you don't need to be Phil Plait to see there's an even bigger problem with that moon. Look at how many degrees of sky it covers. It's obviously much closer to the Earth than it should be. So close, in fact, that it might well be within the Roche limit -- the point at which gravity will rip it apart. That means Conan's moon should probably look more like this:

(Art by Alex Schomburg)

I hope they have hardhats handy!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Today the U.S.A. celebrates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the heroic activist for social justice -- and incidentally history's most renowned Star Trek fan. As Nichelle Nichols tells the story, she was thinking of leaving the show when she had a fateful meeting with a fan.
"One of the promoters came up and said someone wanted to meet me. He said he's my greatest fan," says Nichols, 78. "I thought it was some Trekker, some kid. I turned in my seat and there was Dr. Martin Luther King with a big smile on his face. He said, 'I am a Trekker, I am your biggest fan.'"

At that point, Nichols thought of herself as just a cast member on the show and hadn't fully grasped the racial implications of her part. She'd dealt with race all her life, of course, even on the set at Paramount, where a security guard hurled insults at her, but she hadn't grasped the importance of an African-American woman having a position of respect on TV.

Nichols thanked King and told him she was leaving the show.

"He was telling me why I could not [resign]," she recalls. "He said I had the first nonstereotypical role, I had a role with honor, dignity and intelligence. He said, 'You simply cannot abdicate, this is an important role. This is why we are marching. We never thought we'd see this on TV.'"

Nichols was at a loss for words. It was the first time the importance of being an African-American woman on television had sank in. She returned to "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry the next Monday morning and rescinded her resignation.

"He sat there and looked at me and said, 'God bless Dr. Martin Luther King. Somebody does understand me,'" Nichols says.

There has been a concerted effort to bury Dr. King's radical later years when he expanded his campaign to oppose not only racism, but also militarism and economic exploitation. When he denounced the U.S.A.'s war in Vietnam the establishment media turned on him, and to this day they do everything they can to circumscribe his legacy. So in honor of Dr. King's truly radical legacy here in its entirety is his 1967 speech, "Why I am opposed to the War in Vietnam".

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Strange Stories (1884)

Strange Stories (1884) by Grant Allen

"I may perhaps also venture to plead in self-defence that though these stories do not profess to be anything more than mere short sensational tales, I have yet endeavoured to give to most of them some slight tinge of scientific or psychological import and meaning."

Includes the stories "Pausodyne", "an early tale about Suspended Animation", "A Child of the Phalanstery", "about a future society's Eugenic practices", as well as "New Year's Eve Among the Mummies", "The Mysterious Occurrence in Piccadilly", "Our Scientific Observations on a Ghost" and others.

Produced by Annie R. McGuire. This book was produced from scanned images of public domain material from the Google Print archive.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Knight Blade

Here's something for a laugh. It's a mock opening credit sequence that spoofs cheesy 80's sci-fi TV shows like Knight Rider.

[via AOTS]

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Universe from Nothing

As a sort of followup to yesterday's post here's Lawrence Krauss talking about A Universe from Nothing at the Atheist Allience in 2009.

UPDATE: Hmm...the embed url just up and vanished. Fixed it, obviously.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It is 5 Minutes to Midnight

If the the news that warfare has metastasized to include the assassination of scientists isn't grim enough then the news that the Doomsday Clock has ticked a minute closer to midnight should raise your eyebrows.

Lawrence Krauss, co-chair, BAS Board of Sponsors, commenting on the Doomsday Clock announcement, said:
"Unfortunately, Einstein's statement in 1946 that 'everything has changed, save the way we think,' remains true. The provisional developments of 2 years ago have not been sustained, and it makes sense to move the clock closer to midnight, back to the value it had in 2007. Faced with clear and present dangers of nuclear proliferation and climate change, and the need to find sustainable and safe sources of energy, world leads are failing to change business as usual. Inaction on key issues including climate change, and rising international tensions motivate the movement of the clock. As we see it, the major challenge at the heart of humanity's survival in the 21stcentury is how to meet energy needs for economic growth in developing and industrial countries without further damaging the climate, exposing people toloss of health and community, and without risking further spread of nuclear weapons, and in fact setting the stage for global reductions."

Which goes to show that anxiety about the future isn't irrational, although the populace often seems not to be able to deal with it except in an irrational way. Witness the popularity of "zombie" fiction, which seems to reflect a consciousness about the danger of virulent pandemics but can only conceptualize that unease as a ghoulish fantasy. Or more to the point, the current hysteria over the "end" of the Mayan calender in 2012 which some fringy few claim heralds Ragnarok.

While the hype around 2012 has more to do with a residual colonial exploitation of indigenous people, with imperialist authors illicitly appropriating native culture despite the protests of the Maya themselves (who won't see a dime of those dubious profits), it also reflects a society that recognizes that disaster threatens but which is unable to directly confront the problem and instead substitutes a fantasy. Quentin Cooper, host of the BBC science show Material World, recently illuminated these illusions, and sought to find out if there was any fact to be found in the fantasies. To hear the show click this link to open a pop-up player.(30 minutes)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

RiffTrax - Plan 9 From Outer Space

Just to prove that I haven't been abducted by aliens, here's the RiffTrax take on Ed Wood's chef d'œuvre. Originally titled Grave Robbers from Outer Space, the movie was most likely inspired by Alex Schomburg's cover for the September 1939 issue of  Startling Stories.

Monday, January 2, 2012

SF That Could Have Entered the Public Domain

The Center for the Study of the Public Domain has released their annual Public Domain Day reminder about artistic works that could have entered the public domain on January 1, 2012. "Under the law that existed until 1978 . . . Works from 1955." That would have included such sf works as...

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King, which would have made the entire Lord of Rings trilogy part of our common world heritage rather than the private property of the Tolkien estate.

Fredric Brown's sf comedy classic, Martians, Go Home.

Jack Finney's classic of Cold War paranoia, The Body Snatchers, which introduced the term "pod people" into the popular lexicon.

Leigh Brackett's post-holocaust classic, The Long Tomorrow.

Philip K. Dick's The Solar Lottery.

And Isaac Asimov's time travel novel, The End of Eternity, could along with his Foundation trilogy have entered the public domain.

Luckily there are some loopholes in the current restrictive laws. While stories like Robert Sheckley's humorous "The Lifeboat Mutiny" (1955) is not in the public domain, the X Minus One radio adaptation of it is. So until the law is repaired we can at least freely enjoy it in that form.

The Lifeboat Mutiny

Sunday, January 1, 2012

RWR: Year End Clearance Show 2011

"And a one, and a two..."

Radio4all is back online, so here's  Rural War Room Radio's year end blow out show to ring in 2012.

Rural War Room Radio Year End 2011 Part 01 (57 mins 27 secs)
Rural War Room Radio Year End 2011 Part 02 (1 hr 01 min 48 secs)
Rural War Room Radio Year End 2011 Part 03 (56 min 32 secs)
Rural War Room Radio Year End 2011 Part 04 (1 hr 2 mins 3 secs)
Rural War Room Radio Year End 2011 Part 05 (38 mins 59 secs)

Happy New Year!

As the intergalactic band strikes up "Auld Lang Syne" I get ready for the new year. I'm not usually one for resolutions, but I will try to finish reviewing the rest of E. C. Tubb's Dumarest novels. I kind of got burned out about halfway in, but I think I've regained enough ironic detachment that I can make it through to the end. The hardest part about blogging is that every time I think of something to blather on about it seems like somebody else has done it first and done it better. It gets kind of discouraging sometimes. So thank you to all of you regular readers. I appreciate you dropping by to hear what I have to say, however out of date or wrongheaded it may be. I was going to leave you all with Rural War Room Radio's Year End Clearance Show, but it looks like Radio4all is offline. (I hope that's not an omen of the year ahead.) So instead Murgatroyd and I toast you with a hot cup of java and wish you all the best for the year ahead.


Murgatroyd says I should at least play his favorite song from the eclectic RWR playlist, so here's Marilyn Maye's "Java". 謹賀新年!