Pixel Scroll 1/1/18 Scrolled Lang Syne

By JJ:

(1) MORE DESTRUCTION AHEAD.  Uncanny Magazine has announced that the special Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction issue will be open for submissions soon:

Reading period: January 15th, 2018 to February 15th, 2018. Please do not submit anything until January 15th. Emails containing submissions will be deleted. (Uncanny Magazine uses the Moksha submission system.)

Who can submit:

We welcome submission from writers who identify themselves as disabled. Identity is what matters for this issue. What kinds of disabilities? All of them. Invisible and visible. Physical disabilities, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, mental health disabilities, and neurodiversity.

Yes, even if your disability is a recently acquired one.

Yes, even if your disability is static, or if it isn’t.

Yes, even if you’ve had your disability since birth.

Yes, even if you use adaptive devices only SOME of the time.

Yes, you.

Reading Elsa’s essay “Disabled Enough” from our Kickstarter may help if you have any doubts.

So, if you identify as disabled across any of these definitions or others, we want to hear from you!

More submission details are located at the linked page; be sure to read them thoroughly and adhere to them when submitting.

(2) SUPERMOON TONIGHT.  January 1 is the second of a trio of supermoons within a 2-month period. EarthSky reports:

The first of two January 2018 full moons falls on the evening of January 1, 2018, for most of the Western Hemisphere (January 2 for the Eastern Hemisphere). This full moon comes only 4.5 hours after the moon reaches lunar perigee – the moon’s closest point to Earth in its monthly orbit. Thus this full moon presents the closest – and thereby the largest and brightest – supermoon of 2018.

Join the Virtual Telescope Project in Rome for an online viewing of the January 1, 2018 supermoon.

Additional details for optimal viewing are available at the link.

(3) ONE PARTY IS NOT ENOUGH.  The six astronauts aboard the ISS (International Space Station), who orbit Earth every 90 minutes, got to ring in the new year 16 times and see 16 sunrises and sunsets from 250 miles above Earth. ISS crewmembers Joe Acaba, Scott Tingle, Norishige Kanai, and Mark Vande Hei shared some of their favorite memories of ringing in a new year in a video:

NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Terry Virts also wished the people of Earth a Happy New Year in a video recorded from their post on the ISS. Watch it here on Space.com.

(4) WITH A HEART REINDEER.  Research scientist Janelle Shane created a neural network and fed it a database of ancient and modern Christmas Carols created by the Times of London with reader/neural net hobbyist Erik Svensson. Dr. Shane explains how the neural network teaches itself based on the examples it’s been given, and shares some of the results:

With a heart reindeer
But no more a stranger.
Santa baby, and Dancer, and Curry down

Happy Holiday
When the snowflakes will call the world wakes to bring
Glory bears and asses the air the angels sang
And Christmas tree

For some reason, the Sandman figures very prominently in the neural net’s Christmas mythology, despite having been mentioned in the dataset only once. Sometimes the neural net latches on to particular words for no reason I can see. Maybe it’s a Neil Gaiman fan.

The sandman bright before Him.
The holly bears a berry bears
And star in the snow is born today!

More examples appear at the link, and Shane invites readers who wish to see the, er… more risqué results to sign up to receive them.

(5) BOB YOU GET A SINGLE BLESSING ONLY.  And Botnik Studios revealed the results of their holiday newsletter predictive algorithm:

(a higher-res version can be read here)

(6) PARTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF CATNIP.  Here’s what happens when you work for a TV station and you wear your ugly holiday sweater to work – your SJW Credentials take up meteorology reporting:

(7) LONG CAR TRIPS MUST BE FUN.  Professional photographer Josh Rossi shared his family holiday card:

(8) SJW CREDENTIALS HAVE STAFF.  We know who’s in charge here, and it’s not Mr. and Mrs. Scalzi.

Scalzi provides a different shot and the background for the installation in a blog post.

(9) PASSING THE TORCH SONIC SCREWDRIVER.  Past Worldcon chair Dave McCarty talks about the fannish Christmas gift he received in a Facebook post:

I sat my daughter down on my lap and explained to her about a TV show that I have loved since I wasn’t much older than she is right now.

I told her about Time Lords and Gallifrey and regeneration and time travel and companions and Cybermen and Daleks and the T.A.R.D.I.S.

I explained who The Doctor is and who he has been and how he always tries to help the people he finds.

I asked her if she’d like to watch the show with me tonight…

You’ll want to read the entire post.

(10) FORMULA FOR HAPPY HOLIDAYS.  Muslim author and educator Qasim Rashid shares his holiday greetings:

(11) SWATTING RESULTS IN TRAGIC DEATH.  On December 28, 28-year-old Andrew “Andy” Finch was killed when police officers in Wichita, Kansas responded to a 911 call about a hostage/murder situation, the Wichita Eagle reported.

On Twitter, more than a dozen people who identified themselves as being in the gaming community told The Eagle that a feud between two Call of Duty players sparked one to initiate a “swatting” call.

After news began to spread about what happened Thursday night, the people in the gaming community, through Twitter posts, pointed at two gamers.

“I DIDNT GET ANYONE KILLED BECAUSE I DIDNT DISCHARGE A WEAPON AND BEING A SWAT MEMBER ISNT MY PROFESSION,” said one gamer, who others said made the swatting call. His account was suspended overnight.

According to posts on Twitter, two gamers were arguing when one threatened to target the other with a swatting call. The person who was the target of the swatting gave the other gamer a false address, which sent police to a nearby home instead of his own, according to Twitter posts.

The FBI has confirmed to Wichita station KWCH’s Eyewitness News that they are assisting Wichita Police and Los Angeles Police in the investigation.

The Los Angeles Police Department confirms it’s arrested 25-year-old Tyler Barriss, of Los Angeles, in connection with Thursday night’s deadly “swatting” call in Wichita.

The LAPD says Barriss was arrested Friday afternoon.

Information from the City of Glendale, Calif. shows that in October 2015, Barriss was arrested in connection with making a bomb threat to ABC Studios in Glendale…

Attorney Charley O’Hara says there will probably be federal charges for the man accused of “swatting,” as well as state charges, because the FBI helped with the arrest.

O’Hara says smilar charges would include terrorist threat or threats to places or events like schools or concerts.

He says there are a lot of aspects to the case, both with the man who made the prank call and with the officer who fired the fatal shot.

“The person that made that call and made that report was obviously wrong, but also, we need to question if good judgement was used when they responded to that call,” O’Hara says. “Was that the correct way that we want our police officers or our law enforcement or the protectors of all of our safety to respond to situations like this?”

(12) STILL NOT FUNNY.   Business Insider, investigating the results of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, reveals that no charges were filed in the Gamergate investigation, despite FBI agents obtaining numerous confessions of death threats. Their exposé includes background on Gamergate, as well as redacted versions of investigation summaries.

The day before Halloween, FBI agents showed up at the home of a Massachusetts man linked to dozens of rape, bomb, and death threats targeting women involved in the video game scene. They believed he was a supporter of Gamergate, the militant online movement that wants to end feminist criticism of video games.

The man, whose name was kept confidential by the FBI, confessed: He told the agents that he was a “tech guy,” a qualified A++ coder, who played video games a lot and lived with his parents, according to a set of documents the FBI released on its investigation into Gamergate.

He told the agents that he hung out on 4chan, the notorious online image-posting board that – according to the FBI documents – has a history of hosting child pornography. He admitted that he had mocked the women who were targets of Gamergate threats on 4chan, calling one of them “a professional victim who exaggerated the threats.”

Then the agents showed him one of those threatening emails. The man said he had created a new email account specifically for the purpose of sending threats to Gamergate targets. He “admitted to sending the threatening email,” the FBI wrote in its report, and he “understood the email ‘looked really bad.'” Crucially, he also confessed that he knew it was a crime: The man “understood that it was a federal crime to send a threatening communication to anyone and will never do it again,” the FBI wrote.

Yet despite all that – an email trail, a confession, and an admission from the suspect that he knew he was breaking the law – the FBI let him go after the suspect said it was a “joke”.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born January 1, 1922 – Jerry Robinson, Comics Illustrator (creator of Batman’s Robin)
  • Born January 1, 1938 – Frank Langella, Actor (star of 1979’s Dracula)
  • Born January 1, 1957 – Madolyn Smith Osborne, Actor (Caroline Floyd in 2010: The Year We Make Contact)
  • Born January 1, 1968 – Mark Lawrence, Author (The Broken Empire and The Red Queen’s War trilogies)
  • Born January 1, 1970 – Gabriel Jarret, Actor (Mitch Taylor in Real Genius)
  • Born January 1, 1972 – Catherine McCormack, Actor (Dr. Sonia Rand in A Sound of Thunder)

(14) GLORIOUS REFRACTION.  Brent Mckean, a photographer specializing in astrophotography, captured an amazing photo in Eastern Manitoba, Canada:

On Facebook he explains:

Several people with meteorological knowledge have advised that the atmospheric phenomena captured here are: a circumzenithal arc, a supralateral arc, an upper tangent arc (relatively rare), a 46 degree halo (pretty rare), a Parry arc, Parry supralateral arcs, a 22 degree halo, twin sun dogs (parhelia), partial parhelic circle, and an upper sun pillar. I also understand it is rare to see all of these during a single event.

(15) NOCON.  Newcon PDX, a fan convention for science fiction, video games, anime, comics, and cosplay, which was scheduled to take place from January 5-7, 2018 in Portland, Oregon, has been cancelled, says Director Michael Anderson:

I have to announce that Newcon 6 is cancelled.

Since 2011, Newcon has tried to give the area an inclusive convention that dips into subcultures beyond just anime and pop culture. Our amazing staff and attendees have made every year of Newcon an exceptionally fun experience, and I am heartbroken that we won’t be able to continue the tradition.

Due to a number of issues (some in our management’s control, and some out), our original venue stopped being an option for the event. For my part, I’m sorry. As anyone keeping up with the announcements on Facebook has seen, we were hoping to move the event to a new venue, but the offer was officially rescinded this afternoon. Without a venue, we have no pathway forward for the event to happen.

There has been a whirlwind of gossip thrown around about myself, my partner, our staff, and the convention. Early this year, our original venue choice was contacted and “warned” about Newcon and my management. I have no doubt that the individuals with a vendetta against Newcon did the same with our new venue choice. Now we see the fruits of their spite.

As the Northwest’s convention record shows, keeping conventions going is hard. It’s expensive, difficult to plan, and relies on incredible people working together. I want to thank every member of Newcon 6’s staff for all the incredible work they put in. Thousands of hours are going down the drain, and for that I am livid. I am aware of the calls for new ownership/directorship of Newcon PDX, and if the brand has any future I will make sure it is passed to someone divorced from any of the community hostility, who will carry on the spirit of what made the event special. I will not be involved in its future.

To our attendees, vendors, and artists, I’m sorry. I’m new to cancelling events, and doubly new to cancelling events this late in the game. All tickets will be refunded, and we’ll be working with guests, vendors, and artists to refund their investments in the convention. Please contact info@newconpdx.com with any concerns.

The northwest deserves a convention like Newcon. I am sorry that Newcon can’t be that convention.

(16) DOC BROWN HAS BEEN AT IT AGAIN.  After Stephen Callaghan’s 12-year-old daughter, Ruby, came home with the news that she’d been assigned to a girls-only group at school for a makeover in the library, while all the boys were going to be taken on a field trip to a local hardware store, he penned a letter to the principal at her Australian school:

I must draw your attention to a serious incident which occurred yesterday at your school where my daughter Ruby is a Year 6 student.

When Ruby left for school yesterday it was 2017 but when she returned home in the afternoon she was from 1968.

I know this to be the case as Ruby informed me that the “girls” in Year 6 would be attending the school library to get their hair and make-up done on Monday afternoon while the “boys” are going to Bunnings.

Are you able to search the school buildings for a rip in the space-time continuum? Perhaps there is a faulty Flux Capacitor hidden away in the girls toilet block?

I look forward to this being rectified and my daughter and other girls at the school being returned to this millennium where school activities are not divided sharply along gender lines.

(17) RESOLVED.  Grant Snider, who creates Incidental Comics, posted his suggestions for New Year’s Resolutions, some of which will certainly resonate with Filers.

(18) BIG BLUE MARBLE.  The Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA’s Johnson Space Center counts down the top photos taken by NASA Astronauts aboard the International Space Station in 2017.

[Thanks to Jessica Jones, John Jacob Astor, J. Jonah Jameson, Janis Joplin, J.J. Abrams, Joan Jett, Jay Jay The Jet Plane, Jean-Jacques Leroy, John Joseph Adams, Jesse James, and John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt for these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day bloodstone75 and RedWombat.]

Black Hole Hunter

Gamma ray bursts are the most powerful events in the universe, surpassed only by the energy discharged when Bob Eggleton leaps onstage to accept a Hugo and does That Thing With His Hair. Astronomers theorize collapsing stars produce black holes, sending gamma rays shooting across space. The bursts are short-lived, much like Arnie Katz’ fanzine titles, so it’s not easy for astronomers to react and make observations. Now NASA has sent the fastest-swiveling space science observatory ever built into orbit, launched November 20, to scan for the “birth screams” of black holes.

Black hole” is a phrase coined by American John Wheeler in 1968 to describe an object with a gravitational force so powerful that not even light could escape its pull. (Fans who don’t know the difference between a black hole and a neutron star will see that date and be wondering how Larry Niven won a Hugo for something before scientists gave it a name.)

NASA’s new orbital observatory, named Swift for its speedy pivoting and pointing, finally made it off the pad after weeks of delays caused by hurricanes and a three-day postponement due to rocket trouble.

The concept of something like a black hole dates back to the 18th century, when the English and French rivaled each other for world leadership in science as well as war. Either England’s John Mitchell or France’s Laplace first thought of the notion. Historians know Mitchell used Isaac Newton’s theories of gravity and corpuscular light to calculate that a star 500 times larger than the sun would have enough gravity to prevent light from escaping.

Astronomers have never seen a black hole directly, but infer their existence the radiation created as material feeds the object, not unlike the way fans know Bob Tucker is present in a crowded room party, although blocked from view, after everyone suddenly calls out “ Smoooooth!

In contrast to astronomers, who like to study these things from a safe distance, science fiction writers make their characters drive right up to the edge of black holes and fall in. Of course, for writers this is simply a word picture of their careers as they send manuscripts off to publishers whose interminable response times make it seem like their work has disappeared into a singularity with a New York zip code.

Stories are certainly the easiest way for people to visualize the experience of entering a black hole. Otherwise, what constitutes “falling in” can only be fully understood after years spent studying advanced equations (an unlikely choice among people squandering time by clicking on articles at Trufen.net.) How long does it take to fall in? Ted Bunn answers:

“Let’s say you start at rest from a point whose distance from the singularity is ten times the black hole’s radius. Then for a million-solar-mass black hole, it takes you about 8 minutes to reach the horizon. Once you’ve gotten that far, it takes you only another seven seconds to hit the singularity…. Once you’ve crossed the horizon, in your remaining seven seconds, you might panic and start to fire your rockets in a desperate attempt to avoid the singularity. Unfortunately, it’s hopeless, since the singularity lies in your future, and there’s no way to avoid your future. In fact, the harder you fire your rockets, the sooner you hit the singularity. It’s best just to sit back and enjoy the ride.”
It’s just human nature to poke and prod and try to find out things man was not meant to know. So stubborn astronomers continue to learn all kinds of trivia about black holes. (1) The x-ray radiation emanating from black holes has two components. (2) The Hubble telescope

has detected the noise of gas being slurped into a black hole (and it bears no resemblance to Joe Haldeman slipping into that tub of lime jello; and most remarkable of all, (3) Stephen Hawking and Roger Ebert now agree that nothing escapes from a black hole.

NASA’s Swift observatory is a $250 million collaboration by NASA, Italy and Britain. Unless you think Santa is bringing you one for Christmas, you may have to settle for what you can afford and research black holes the old-fashioned way, by downloading the free board game based on the international Space Very Long Baseline Interferometry Program (SVLBI).