Pixel Scroll 11/11/17 The Pixel, We’re Told, Never Gives Up Her Scroll

(1) 2017 GALAXY AWARDS. Here is a partial report of the winners of the 2017 Galaxy Awards, presented in China at the Chengdu International SF Conference.

Mike Resnick won for Most Popular Foreign Author.

Crystal Huff tweeted two other results:

(2) I SAY HELLO, YOU SAY GOODBYE. The Atlantic asks “What Happens If China Makes First Contact?” The author traveled to China to report on its SETI efforts, and had lengthy conversations with Liu Cixin whose Three-Body trilogy explores the hazards of such contacts.

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (seti) is often derided as a kind of religious mysticism, even within the scientific community. Nearly a quarter century ago, the United States Congress defunded America’s seti program with a budget amendment proposed by Senator Richard Bryan of Nevada, who said he hoped it would “be the end of Martian-hunting season at the taxpayer’s expense.” That’s one reason it is China, and not the United States, that has built the first world-class radio observatory with seti as a core scientific goal.

Seti does share some traits with religion. It is motivated by deep human desires for connection and transcendence. It concerns itself with questions about human origins, about the raw creative power of nature, and about our future in this universe—and it does all this at a time when traditional religions have become unpersuasive to many. Why these aspects of seti should count against it is unclear. Nor is it clear why Congress should find seti unworthy of funding, given that the government has previously been happy to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on ambitious searches for phenomena whose existence was still in question. The expensive, decades-long missions that found black holes and gravitational waves both commenced when their targets were mere speculative possibilities. That intelligent life can evolve on a planet is not a speculative possibility, as Darwin demonstrated. Indeed, seti might be the most intriguing scientific project suggested by Darwinism.

Even without federal funding in the United States, seti is now in the midst of a global renaissance. Today’s telescopes have brought the distant stars nearer, and in their orbits we can see planets. The next generation of observatories is now clicking on, and with them we will zoom into these planets’ atmospheres. seti researchers have been preparing for this moment. In their exile, they have become philosophers of the future. They have tried to imagine what technologies an advanced civilization might use, and what imprints those technologies would make on the observable universe. They have figured out how to spot the chemical traces of artificial pollutants from afar. They know how to scan dense star fields for giant structures designed to shield planets from a supernova’s shock waves.

… Liu Cixin told me he doubts the dish will find one. In a dark-forest cosmos like the one he imagines, no civilization would ever send a beacon unless it were a “death monument,” a powerful broadcast announcing the sender’s impending extinction. If a civilization were about to be invaded by another, or incinerated by a gamma-ray burst, or killed off by some other natural cause, it might use the last of its energy reserves to beam out a dying cry to the most life-friendly planets in its vicinity.

Newsweek has placed its wager: “Search for Aliens: Why China Will Find Them First”

(3) WHERE’S FALCO? Marcus Errico, in a Yahoo! Movies post called “Find the Falcon! How Lucasfilm and fans have been playing hide-and-seek with iconic ‘Star Wars’ ship”, says that Disney has gone to elaborate lengths to hide their full-scale Millennium Falcon model but fans have found out where it is by using aerial photography.

This week’s headlines came courtesy of one Kevin Beaumont, a Brit who, using Google Maps, was able to spot the disguised ship near Longcross Studios outside of London. Disney covered the Falcon with sheeting and tucked the beloved “hunk of junk” behind a ring of shipping containers, shielding it from fans and Imperial troops alike

(4) WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY. James Davis Nicoll faces his greatest challenge:

TFW I realize as a tor.com reviewer I am competing against myself as a jamesdavisnicoll reviewer and vice versa. No choice but to double down until I emerge victorious.

(5) G.I. JOE AND BARBIE, TOGETHER? Two toymakers could become one — “Hasbro reportedly makes a takeover bid for struggling rival Mattel”. The Los Angeles Times has the story.

Mattel has struggled with slumping sales despite hiring a new chief executive early this year, Margo Georgiadis, a former Google executive.

Mattel in late October reported a 14% drop in its third-quarter sales, excluding the effect of currency fluctuations, and suspended its quarterly dividend. It blamed some of the decline on the recent bankruptcy filing of retailer Toys R Us Inc.

That prompted S&P Global Ratings to lower its ratings on Mattel’s corporate debt, and led one analyst to say that Mattel might be better off as a takeover target.

“We believe its brands and manufacturing footprint could be worth more than $10 billion in their current state,” analyst Gerrick Johnson of BMO Capital Markets said in a note to clients. “Thus, the company could have value to a financial, industry or entertainment conglomerate buyer.”

Mattel’s market value is $5 billion after the stock plunged 47% so far this year. The stock jumped 5% Friday to close at $14.62 a share.

(6) FAAN AWARDS. Corflu 35 announced that Nic Farey will be the FAAn awards administrator for the 2018 awards, given for work published in 2017 and to be distributed at Corflu 35 in Toronto.

(7) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN. Andrew says, “This story is reminiscent of the ‘On/Off’ star in Vernor Vinge’s Deepness in the Sky.” From the BBC, “‘Zombie’ star survived going supernova”:

When most stars go supernova, they die in a single blast, but astronomers have found a star that survived not one, but five separate explosions.

The “zombie” star kept erupting for nearly two years – six times longer than the duration of a typical supernova.”

“Intriguingly, by combing through archived data, scientists discovered an explosion that occurred in 1954 in exactly the same location. This could suggest that the star somehow survived that explosion, only to detonate again in 2014.

The object may be the first known example of a Pulsational Pair Instability Supernova.

“According to this theory, it is possible that this was the result of a star so massive and hot that it generated antimatter in its core,” said co-author Daniel Kasen, from the University of California, Berkeley. “

(8) SUPERGIRL. A genre figure joins the list of the accused: “Warner Bros. Suspends ‘Supergirl,’ ‘Flash’ Showrunner in Wake of Sexual Harassment Claims”.

Andrew Kreisberg, executive producer of The CW DC Comics series including The Flash, Supergirl and Arrow, has been suspended by producers Warner Bros. TV Group over allegations of sexual harassment by multiple women.

Warner Bros. Television, the studio behind the Greg Berlanti-produced comic book shows, has launched an internal investigation into the claims leveled against Kreisberg.

“We have recently been made aware of allegations of misconduct against Andrew Kreisberg. We have suspended Mr. Kreisberg and are conducting an internal investigation,” Warners said in a statement late Friday. “We take all allegations of misconduct extremely seriously, and are committed to creating a safe working environment for our employees and everyone involved in our productions.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 11, 1994 Interview with the Vampire premieres.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS & GIRLS

  • Born November 11, 1922 — Kurt Vonnegut
  • Born November 11, 1960 — Stanley Tucci, actor (Transformers: Age of Extinction, Muppets Most Wanted, Jack the Giant Slayer, The Hunger Games series).
  • Born November 11, 1962 — Demi Moore, American actress (Ghost)
  • Born November 11, 1964 – Calista Flockhart (Supergirl)
  • Born November 11, 1966 – Alison Doody, actress (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)
  • Born November 11, 1974 – Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception)

(11) CALLING GITCHY GUMIE. Matthew Johnson’s offered these lyrics in comments to help File 770 compensate for failing to mention the anniversary of the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald as an item in “Today in History.”

The legend comes down from the APAs of old
Of the fanzine become a webjournal
The pixel, we’re told, never gives up its scrolls
In the winds of September eternal.

With a full load of links and a hold full of thinks
And Ray Bradbury stories remembered
With two fifths of scotch and a God that they’d stalked
Through the winds of eternal September.

(12) PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER. N.K. Jemisin tweeted:

(13) GOOD TASTE? Annalee Flower Horne questioned Windycon’s choice for a panel title.

(14) FOLKTALES. NPR interviewed Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Maria Tatar, two Harvard professors, about their anthology: “‘Annotated African American Folktales’ Reclaims Stories Passed Down From Slavery”.

On the complicated history of Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus stories

Gates: Joel Chandler Harris did an enormous service. We can debate the fact that, well, he certainly wasn’t a black man, and we could debate what his motivation was, and we can wonder, did African-Americans receive any percentage or share of the enormous profit that he made? The answer is absolutely not. But on the other hand, a lot of these tales would have been lost without Joel Chandler Harris.

Tatar: I was going to present the counter argument that is, did he kill African-American folklore? Because after all, if you look at the framed narrative, who is Uncle Remus telling the stories to? A little white boy, and so suddenly this entire tradition has been appropriated for white audiences, and made charming rather than subversive and perilous, dangerous — stories that could be told only at nighttime when the masters were not listening.

Gates: But think about it this way: It came into my parlor, it came into my bedroom, through the lips of a black man, my father, who would have us read the Uncle Remus tales but within a whole different context, and my father, can we say, re-breathed blackness into those folktales. So it’s a very complicated legacy.

(15) HOW LONG WAS IT? ScreenRant plays along with the ides this can be done: “Science Determines When Star Wars Movies Take Place”.

As reported by Wired, Johnson posits that based on the development of life, culture and approximate age of the planets in the universe, Star Wars takes place about roughly 9 billion years after the big bang that created the universe as it is now known. If true, this leaves at least 4.7 billion years between the stories of Star Wars and the present day world. In other words it is “a long time ago.”

The most interesting evidence Johnson gives to this theory is the planet of Mustafar; the site of Anakin and Obi-Wan’s climatic duel in Revenge of the Sith and later home to Darth Vader’s castle. Mustafar is a planet overflowing with lava and containing a nearly ridiculous amount of volcanoes but that climate isn’t all that different to what Earth was like in its early stages. Similarly, Hoth, the famous snowy planet from Empire Strikes Back, could be another Earth-like entity experiencing an ice age. Star Wars‘ motif of having “themed planets” is really nothing more than Earth-esque planets being in different stages of development.

(16) BEHIND THE IRON FILINGS. A BBC report ponders “Why Russia’s first attempt at the internet failed”. (Video at the link.)

In the 1960s, a Russian engineer proposed a civilian computer network to connect workers and farmers all across the Soviet Union, and the idea made it all the way to the highest authorities in Moscow.

What went wrong? Watch this video to find out, and read this in-depth piece for analysis on how this Soviet failure unfolded.

(17) LONGHAND. “The Feeling of Power” redux: “Do we need to teach children joined-up handwriting?”

The US state of Illinois has passed a law requiring school students to learn joined-up handwriting, or “cursive”, overriding the governor’s veto.

It is no longer a requirement in US schools, and some countries have dropped the skill from the curriculum or made it optional.

Why, then, do some – like the UK – still insist on it in a digital age? Shouldn’t children learn to type effectively instead?

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Evening Standard breaks down the “John Lewis Christmas advert 2017: Watch as snoring and farting Moz The Monster emerges from under the bed”.

John Lewis this morning unveiled its latest Christmas campaign advert that features a young boy who befriends a scruffy monster who is sleeping under his bed.

The two-minute advert, set to a cover of Beatles track Golden Slumbers by Elbow, tells the story of Joe – who realises a snoring and farting 7ft imaginary monster called Moz lives under his bed.

Joe – who is played by seven-year-old London twin brothers Tobias and Ethan – befriends Moz and the pair get up to mischief, playing in the boy’s bedroom in to the small hours.

After a number of sleepless nights, Joe keeps falling asleep during the day. So Moz decides to give him a night light, which when illuminated makes the monster vanish meaning Joe can sleep undisturbed.

But as the advert comes to an end with the tagline “For gifts that brighten up their world,” viewers soon realise when Joe turns off the night light, Moz returns – meaning they can remain friends.

…Much like the poor boy he keeps awake at night, Moz the Monster feels a bit tired. While undeniably sweet, Moz is a bumbling character that you can’t not love, we have seen it all before. The monster is – really – a hairier version of Monty the Penguin, the CGI star of a few years ago.

 

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Nic Farey, Andrew, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

62 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/11/17 The Pixel, We’re Told, Never Gives Up Her Scroll

  1. I use cursive in two contexts these days. When writing inscriptions in books (where I try very hard to make it legible–not sure how well I succeed), and sometimes when writing first drafts of fiction, especially when I’m in non-standard contexts. (*cough* backs of handouts in really boring meetings or training sessions *cough*) Most of the first draft of Daughter of Mystery was written longhand as part of my experimenting with various approaches to the writing process. But in this context I’m usually scribbling very quickly and the legibility is very very marginal. So I have to transcribe within one or two days or I forget what I was trying to say.

  2. I seem to use a weird mishmash of cursive and print usually, with print caps except when I’m writing my own name. It’s mostly cursive lower-case with some print letters thrown in for clarity (“s” and “r”, I’m looking at you). I also can print clearly, which was a professional skill when I started as an accountant back in 1982, before we used computers, but after copy machines came in. We printed tax returns in pencil on paper forms, then photocopied them. I got very fast with block letters, using larger ones for caps and smaller for lower case. It’s not as neat now as it was then, because it’s been a long time since it had to have that kind of readability.

  3. “I will not Scroll you, Filer Fell,
    The Pixel why I cannot tell,
    but this I stalk, and Godstalk well,
    I will not Scroll you, Filer Fell”

  4. @Xtifr: Hmm, I probably should’ve taken a calligraphy class or 12 when I was younger, to improve my handwriting & printing!

  5. @Kendall

    @Cora: I didn’t know (modern) German and American printing was different. And wow, thanks for the link/info on Sütterlin; it looks like alternate-universe handwriting to me. ?

    It’s not so much the printing per se that’s different, though German has a few extra letters and the upper case I is different, but the system of teaching.

    American schools seem to place more emphasis on learning to read and write as early as possible (my brush with American writing teaching was in kindergarten). They also start teaching writing by teaching block letters and switching to cursive later. However, American schools don’t pay much attention to the way the students hold their hand and grip the pen, as long as they produce the required writing.

    In Germany, reading and writing is taught in primary school, not earlier. Kids are not expected to learn very basic writing and reading in kindergarten, though quite a few do. Indeed, when I entered first grade in 1979, primary school teachers did not like it when kids already knew how to write their names or a few basic words in block letters.

    German schools, at least back when I was in primary school in the late 1970s/early 1980s, taught kids how to read print letters, but not how to write them. It was assumed they’d figure it out how to do it for themselves. Instead, they started teaching kids how to write cursive from first grade on. Because cursive requires a pretty high degree of fine motor control, they start by teaching kids how to make curves, loops, etc… before going on to writing letters and words. There also is a lot of emphasis on how to properly hold the pen and your hand. Finally, there was also a lot of emphasis on the neatness of handwriting. That emphasis was still there in my day (I remember being graded on the neatness of my notes and exercise books – luckily illustrative flourises somewhat cancelled out my scrawly handwriting) and it was much stronger in the 1950s and 1960s. Things have gotten somewhat less rigid since then, but they still teach cursive to kids from the start

    However, I already had approx. eight months of writing instruction in a US kindergarten, when I entered primary school in Germany, and had already learned how to write block letters. And since the US kindergarten teachers hadn’t paid any attention to how I held my hand (since hand posture isn’t that important when printing), my hand posture was wrong by German standards. I hold my arm and hand in an arc above the word I’m writing. German kids are taught to hold their hand straight and below the word they’re writing. The teachers repeatedly tried to correct my hand posture, but it never worked.

    When I write by hand, I’m as fast as anybody who is holding their hand the “correct” way. I still get the occasional comment on my weird posture BTW.

  6. Coincidentally, when I’m teaching German as a second language to refugees, I have to use print letters on the blackboard (or whiteboard, depending on the classroom equipment), because most of the students don’t use the Latin alphabet in their native language. They can read and write the Latin alphabet – the ones who can’t get special alphabetisation classes – but they can’t write cursive and often can’t read it either. Though I have had one student from Francophone Africa who preferred cursive.

  7. I certainly learned how to hold a pen properly in the American educational system. But then, the term “American educational system” is a bit of a misnomer. Education is managed primarily by the state. So California’s educational system is quite a bit different from Oklahoma’s.

    (But of course, even though they’re independent, publishers don’t want to have to publish fifty different textbooks, which is why California and Texas (mainly) are constantly fighting over the contents of the textbooks. For some reason, those are the two states which most other states follow on such matters. The creationists all support Texas, and the sane people end up lining up behind California in self-defense.)

  8. @Xtifr–
    Texas and California, in addition to being high-population states also have state adoption of textbooks. If it’s not approved by the state board, no school district in the state can use it as an official textbook. The combination of high population and state adoption is what gives them their outsized impact on textbook publishers.

  9. @Lis Carey: Ah, that makes sense. But the important point is that they don’t have to agree with each other. (Even though publishers will do their best to try to force a compromise.) Standards can be set at the state level.

    Thus, the statement “I learned/didn’t learn X in an American school” cannot be generalized to “The American educational system teaches/doesn’t teach X.”

  10. Cora, are you left-handed, by any chance? A lot of left-handers hold their pens that way, to avoid smudging the ink. My older sister is one.

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