Pixel Scroll 4/1/18 Oh Lord, Pixel Let Me Be Misunderscrolled

(1) OKORAFOR INTERVIEW. In the Chicago Tribune, “Nnedi Okorafor talks words, career, ‘Black Panther’ and C2E2”.

Q: You write for adults, the young … is there anything you can’t do?

A: I can’t write poetry.

Q: What does your Google search cache look like?

A: (Laughs.) It looks very eccentric, wide and broad — it can go from looking at political issues and looking at the violence of the herdsmen in northern Nigeria to looking up butterflies. I use the internet, and I enjoy it. I feel like it’s having another brain. So anything that pops into my mind, I’ll look it up, even the slightest thing that I’m curious about. If I’m looking at the rug and wondering what kind of dust mites live in the shade of my vent near the window, I will look that up. The internet is amazing.

(2) STRETCHING FOR DOLLARS. The Dark Magazine hit its Kickstarter goal to fund the zine’s next two years – now they’re shooting for the stretch goal.

And we funded! (Wow). With 61 hours to spare! Now . . . do you think we can hit the first stretch goal in that time? It’s just $882 to get a monthly podcast, pay Kate Baker more, and do an one-off Spanish-language edition . . .

(3) SOUTH PACIFIC. “China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station Has Fallen Back to Earth Over the Pacific” reports the New York Times.

A Chinese space station the size of a school bus re-entered Earth’s atmosphere at about 5:16 p.m. Pacific time on Sunday, scattering its remaining pieces over the southern Pacific Ocean, according to the United States’ Joint Force Space Component Command.

The demise of the station, Tiangong-1, became apparent when radar stations no longer detected it passing overhead. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries; the likelihood that pieces would land on someone was small, but not zero.

The station may have landed northwest of Tahiti, Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said on Twitter. That location is north of the Spacecraft Cemetery, an isolated region in the Pacific Ocean where space debris has frequently landed.

(4) PROBLEMATIC PRIZE. Brian Keating, author of Losing the Nobel Prize, will appear April 25 at UCSD’s Atkinson Hall Auditorium beginning at 5:30 p.m. Free ticketed event/RSVP here.

Presented by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the UC San Diego Library

Please join us for a profound discussion that explores the perils of science’s highest honor with astrophysicist Brian Keating and celebrated science fiction writer David Brin… A book signing and reception will follow the talk; books will be available for purchase from the UC San Diego Bookstore.

…Keating’s book tells the story of how the Nobel Prize, instead of advancing scientific progress may actually hamper it, encouraging speed and greed while punishing collaboration. Keating offers practical solutions for reforming the prize.

Keating is a professor of physics at UC San Diego; a fellow of the American Physical Society; and co-leads the Simons Observatory. He’s the author of more than 100 scientific publications and holds two U.S. patents. In addition, he’s a recipient of a NSF CAREER Award and the Presidential Early Career Award.

(5) HAL 9000. So should we say Martin Balsam was HAL 8999, because Douglas Rain ended up being HAL 9000? “The Story of a Voice: HAL in ‘2001’ Wasn’t Always So Eerily Calm” from the New York Times.

The story of the creation of HAL’s performance — the result of a last-minute collaboration between the idiosyncratic director Stanley Kubrick and the veteran Canadian actor Douglas Rain — has been somewhat lost in the 50 years since the film’s release in April 1968. As has its impact: Artificial intelligence has borrowed from the HAL persona, and now, unwittingly, a slight hint of Canadianness resides in our phones and interactive devices.

… But artificial intelligence was decades from a convincing facsimile of a human voice — and who was to say how a computer should sound anyway?

To play HAL, Kubrick settled on Martin Balsam, who had won the best supporting actor Oscar for “A Thousand Clowns.” Perhaps there was a satisfying echo that appealed to Kubrick — both were from the Bronx and sounded like it. In August 1966, Balsam told a journalist: “I’m not actually seen in the picture at any time, but I sure create a lot of excitement projecting my voice through that machine. And I’m getting an Academy Award winner price for doing it, too.”

Adam Balsam, the actor’s son, told me that “Kubrick had him record it very realistically and humanly, complete with crying during the scene when HAL’s memory is being removed.”

Then the director changed his mind. “We had some difficulty deciding exactly what HAL should sound like, and Marty just sounded a little bit too colloquially American,” Kubrick said in the 1969 interview. Mr. Rain recalls Kubrick telling him, “I’m having trouble with what I’ve got in the can. Would you play the computer?”

Kubrick had heard Mr. Rain’s voice in the 1960 documentary “Universe,” a film he watched at least 95 times, according to the actor. “I think he’s perfect,” Kubrick wrote to a colleague in a letter preserved in the director’s archive. “The voice is neither patronizing, nor is it intimidating, nor is it pompous, overly dramatic or actorish. Despite this, it is interesting.”

(6) CONNECTING WITH NONHUMANS. Into the Impossible, the podcast of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, resumes with Episode 16: Alien Contact: Part 2

We’re continuing our conversation from episode 14 about alien contact by focusing on language barriers: barriers between humans and aliens, humans and animals, and, in what some consider the most alien encounter of all, between scientists and artists. With acclaimed science fiction writer Ted Chiang, dolphin researcher Christine Johnson, and visual artist Lisa Korpos.

(7) BOCHCO OBIT. Before he showed a golden touch with his famed cop series, Bochco wrote the script for SF film Silent Running: “Steven Bochco, creator of ‘Hill Street Blues,’ dies at 74”.

Bochco once recalled a fan telling him that “Hill Street Blues” was the first TV series with a memory.

“That’s what I always thought of myself doing in the context of TV: craft a show that over time would have a memory,” he told The Associated Press in an interview two years ago. “I sensed that very early in my career. It just took me another 10 or 12 years to get to the point where I earned the right to take a shot at it.”

Bochco grew up in Manhattan, the son of a painter and a concert violinist. On arriving in Los Angeles after college, he wrote for several series at Universal Studios. Then he got a big break: writing the screenplay for the 1972 sci-fi film “Silent Running.” But Bochco said the disrespect he confronted as the writer soured him on writing for the big screen.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Lynch found April 1st’s Non Sequitur theme suitable for the date.

(9) GAME ANIMALS. I think my main reason for running this is that I recognized the Animal Crossing reference — my daughter used to play it by the hour: “Mineko’s Night Market is a cat-filled spin on Animal Crossing”. The rest of you will like it because the game involves cats.

The world of Mineko’s Night Market is one obsessed with cats. Felines roam freely around its cartoony, cutesy island. Mini-games make sport of their adventures, and occasionally they’ll trail after you like ducklings behind their mother. On Mount Fugu Island, inhabitants even worship cat deities — specifically, the Sun Cat, a portly, upright creature called Abe. Developer Meowza Games has made no secret of its love of one specific animal, but the pleasing aesthetic of its upcoming game only lends to the friendly, approachable atmosphere of it all.

Mineko’s Night Market, launching this year, follows a girl named Mineko who’s recently moved to Mount Fugu Island. She currently runs a market, but it’s been in a financial pinch as of late. Players spend their time collecting weird items and crafting, as well as selling their goods around the island. Brandi Kobayashi, half of the team at Meowza, says the game draws from folklore and aims to be a more narrative adventure than one built around resource gathering. Part of Mineko’s journey will involve unraveling the mystery around Abe, who’s been spotted around the island as of late.

(10) FILERS IN NEW ZEALAND. Hampus Eckerman says, “This is me and Soon Lee at our filers meetup in Auckland. File 770 is really great in creating connections all over the world!”

Soon Lee and Hampus Eckerman

(11) BUILD A BETTER QUBIT. The future of computing is nigh: “Microsoft gambles on a quantum leap in computing”.

In a laboratory in Copenhagen, scientists believe they are on the verge of a breakthrough that could transform computing.

A team combining Microsoft researchers and Niels Bohr Institute academics is confident that it has found the key to creating a quantum computer.

If they are right, then Microsoft will leap to the front of a race that has a tremendous prize – the power to solve problems that are beyond conventional computers.

In the lab are a series of white cylinders, which are fridges, cooled almost to absolute zero as part of the process of creating a qubit, the building block of a quantum computer.

“This is colder than deep space, it may be the coldest place in the universe,” Prof Charlie Marcus tells me.

(12) APRIL FOOLS. Foreign Policy provides analysis of The King’s Speech (think Chadwick Boseman, not Colin Firth) in “Wakanda Shakes the World”.

It’s been six weeks since the “Wakanda speech,” and the world is still reeling. The announcement by King T’Challa at the United Nations General Assembly that the Kingdom of Wakanda is not a developing nation of textiles, farms, and shepherds — estimated in the 2016 CIA World Factbook to have a GDP per person of approximately $760 — but a technological superpower has left global leaders and analysts stunned. The term “uber-developed” nation has been coined to describe the country’s widespread use of advanced magnetic levitation trains, flying vehicles, opaque holograms, and spinal cord-healing beads.

“Welcome to the Future,” an introductory film produced by Wakanda’s newly founded Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is now the most watched video ever on YouTube. T’Challa himself provides a voice-over describing the country’s semi-mythical history, tracing back to the impact of a vibranium meteorite, and the subsequent foundation of the country by five tribes, giving it the name “Wakanda” — “The Family.” As a camera swoops over brush, the trees themselves seem to glitch, and a futuristic skyline resembling a mixture of New York, Timbuktu, and Cairo appears. The video goes on to detail Wakanda’s claimed hyper-achievements: nanotechnology that allows for replicable organs, an average lifespan in the 100s, and a quality of life for the ordinary citizen that surpasses that enjoyed by the top 1 percent in the United States.

(13) APRIL FOOLS REDUX. Jabba the Sushi?

(14) HISTORICALLY MEMORABLE HOAXES. And if you need any more – “The Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time”.

We’ve researched the entire history of April Fool’s Day and selected its top 100 hoaxes ever, as judged by creativity, historical significance, the number of people duped, and notoriety. The first version of this list was created in the late 1990s. Over the years it’s been revised a number of times, based upon reader feedback and ongoing research. The most recent major revision occurred in March 2015.

(15) ZOE QUINN INVITES TINGLE. This is not an April Fools, so who knows, maybe it will happen.

[Thanks to Steven H Silver, Cat Eldridge, Arifel, JJ, John King Tarpinian, StephenfromOttawa, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Mark Hepworth, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Time, Mathematics, and the Mind of God at Clarke Center

clarke clock

The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents “Time, Mathematics, and the Mind of God” on Wednesday, August 10, 2016 at 6 p.m. in UCSD’s Atkinson Hall Auditorium.

The panel discussion highlights personal perspectives from working scientists and a leading science-fiction author regarding what science has to say about some of our deepest cosmic mysteries. How did time begin in our universe? Why does mathematics work so well to describe the physical world? How does this all connect to the most ancient of theological questions?

Discussants will be:

  • Prof. Brian Keating (Physics, UC San Diego)
  • Dr. Andrew Friedman (Physics/Astronomy, MIT)
  • Dr. David Brin (Hugo and Nebula award-winning author)

The event is free and open to the public. Follow the link to reserve tickets.