Pixel Scroll 1/14/17 On A Cold And Gray Trisolarian Morning, A Baby Scroll Was Filed

(1) EYE EYE AYE. From r/Star Wars on Reddit: “Noticed this Mon Calamari who can’t find his monitor while re-watching Return of the Jedi” generated a vast set of amusing comments, half developing the joke, half creating headcanon to explain away the joke.

  • Fun fact: predators evolve to have eyes that are close together and face forward to improve depth perception and acuity in a narrow arc, whereas prey have eyes farther apart so that they have better peripheral coverage to spot threats. Apparently Mon Calamari are not natural predators, hence their keen ability to spot traps.
  • No the guy sitting just moved his desk to the right, you can see him snickering when the guy turn around and doesn’t see the monitor where it usually is.
  • He’s blind and on the wall is written in brail: “more to the right.” These ship are made like that; with brail instructions everywhere because if the percentage of mon-calamari individuals who devellop blindness in their late 30’s. Apparently this happens after they successfully mated the first time.
  • Simple: He has an eye on each side of his head. He can see the screen from that angle. He was actually looking at two things at once.

(2) INELIGIBILITY POST. Ruthless Culture’s Jonathan McCalmont, who thinks award eligibility posts are a bane, says: “Don’t Vote For Me”.

What this means in practice is that every year begins with an ungainly scramble for visibility as hundreds of aspiring authors try to get out their personal votes. These visibility campaigns may start on a bashful and self-deprecating note but the pitch soon rises, growing steadily more grasping and unpleasant until finally reaching the level of demented screaming in the run-up to the annual distribution of fish heads known as the Hugo Awards, at which point the voices collapse either into silence or disgruntled muttering before beginning afresh the following December.

The cycle begins in earnest with the opening of the Hugo nominations period but the year’s first tangible chunk of ego-boo is usually the shortlist for the awards handed out by the British Science Fiction Association. For reasons that doubtless made sense to someone at the time, the process for generating BSFA award shortlists has now changed meaning that people are now expected to nominate for a longlist as well as a shortlist. My piece on the history of the New Weird has made it onto the non-fiction longlist and while I am grateful to everyone who took the time to nominate my piece, I would be even more grateful if it progressed no further as I have decided to decline any and all future award nominations.

(3) A DEAD IDEA COMES BACK. Somebody thinks they’ve got a workable personal jetpack.

“Jetpacks will be part of future cities,” Peter Coker, vice-president of innovation at KuangChi Science, Martin Aircraft Company’s major Chinese shareholder.

“I see it as being the Uber of the sky.”

Martin Aircraft Company, based in New Zealand, already has a working prototype that can fly at 2,800ft (850m) at 45km/h (27mph) for 28 minutes.

And Mr Coker says commuters will be able to hail an unmanned jetpack via a smartphone app.

He admits there will be “regulatory hurdles” to overcome and, if the airways become packed with jetpacks, a need for “automatic collision avoidance”.

(4) WHO’S ON FIRST? If you want to know the firms controlled by the Big 5 Publishers, this searchable graph will show you.

(5) DUTTON OBIT. What a great bookstore he had. “Dave Dutton, the landmark L.A. bookstore owner, dies at 79”. The North Hollywood location – only a couple of miles from the old LASFS Clubhouse – was gloriously stuffed with interesting books.

But he would never stray far from Dutton’s Books, a Los Angeles landmark with its overflowing shelves, hard-to-find titles and customers wondrously thumbing through their options. A “cultural museum,” Dutton once called the bookstore.

Dutton died Friday at his home in Valley Village, roughly a decade after he and his wife packed up the last 50,000 books and closed up the North Hollywood shop for the final time. Dutton was 79 and suffered from Parkinson’s disease.

…When Dutton and his wife packed up the North Hollywood shop, loading the remaining books into a 30-foot truck, Dutton reflected on the virtues of being an old-school bookseller in a market dominated by the Internet.

“The book business used to be a place where idealists and dreamers of a better world who perhaps didn’t like business, didn’t admire the business tactics generally necessary to survive, could find a happy compromise.”

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 14, 1954 — Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio. (Honestly, no sff connection that I could think of. But a big blip on the pop culture screen.)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born January 14, 1943 — Astronaut Shannon Lucid

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 14, 1874 Thornton Burgess, author of Old Mother West Wind, whose array of anthropomorphics included a Peter Rabbit (intentionally using the same name as Beatrix Potter’s character). He wrote about animals and nature in his newspaper column, Bedtime Stories, and by the time he retired, had penned more than 170 books and 15,000 stories for the daily newspaper column.
  • Born January 14, 1924 – Guy Williams, who played Zorro and Professor John Robinson.

(9) ANOTHER VISIT TO THE SEVENTIES. Another tweet from 70s Sci-Fi Art.

(10) WHAT MAKES THIS DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER GIBBONS? The name. BBC reports ”’Star Wars gibbon’ is new primate species”.

A gibbon living in the tropical forests of south west China is a new species of primate, scientists have concluded.

The animal has been studied for some time, but new research confirms it is different from all other gibbons.

It has been named the Skywalker hoolock gibbon – partly because the Chinese characters of its scientific name mean “Heaven’s movement” but also because the scientists are fans of Star Wars.

The study is published in the American Journal of Primatology.

(11) TWIN TITANS. I don’t doubt the misleading innuendo “Power Couples” gets more clicks, though it detracts from homage intended by the publication.

The Jewish Women’s Archive’s “Power Couples” project showcases pairs of extraordinary Jewish women from many different disciplines, matching an early female trailblazer with a modern woman at the top of her game. This project highlights the lives and accomplishments of important pioneers in various fields and the next generation of leaders and innovators, demonstrating the impact of women in the arts, sciences, fashion, athletics, business, and activism….

Fantasy Authors: Jane Yolen and Rachel Swirsky

In 2010, a Jewish Review of Books article asserting that Jewish authors don’t write fantasy precipitated an Internet uproar. Commentators named hundreds of Jewish authors who write about magic, mythical creatures, quests, and adventures—two of whom are Jane Yolen and Rachel Swirsky. Yolen has written almost 300 fantasy and fairytale-inspired books, and was recently named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, an award honoring lifetime achievement. Swirsky has written more than 70 short stories and has twice won the prestigious Nebula Award. Both women expand the definition of the fantasy genre and use their work to espouse themes of social justice….

Actress-Scientists: Hedy Lamarr and Mayim Bialik

You probably wouldn’t expect that we could have multiple entries in a category for actress/scientist. After all, we tend to think of people as being either/or. If you’re a scientist or inventor, you must be mono-focused, introverted, anti-social. If you’re an actor or celebrity, stereotypes suggest that you’re gorgeous but flighty, lacking intelligence or substance. Despite our knowledge that most women are multi-talented multitaskers, we insist on fitting them into narrow categories, denying their complexity. Hedy Lamarr and Mayim Bialik challenge us to rethink our limiting assumptions and to recognize the creative range of women’s abilities.

(12) PRESUMPTIVE GUILT. It’s not quite a “have you stopped beating your wife” gotcha — Disney did already use Fisher’s digital image in Rogue One. In The Guardian, “Disney deny negotiating with Carrie Fisher’s estate for rights to her digital image”.

Disney have denied they are negotiating with Carrie Fisher’s estate for the rights to use the actor’s digital image in future Star Wars film, according to industry sources.

The BBC’s Newsnight programme had reported that, “with what might be regarded as unseemly haste, Star Wars studio Disney had opened with the actor’s estate over her continued appearance in the franchise.”

But in a statement the Walt Disney Company said: “Disney is not in conversations with the estate of Carrie Fisher at this time and any reports to the contrary are false.”

Fisher’s likeness as the young Princess Leia in the original 1977 Star Wars was digitally rendered and appeared in the final frames of prequel Rogue One – along with Peter Cushing’s. As filming occurred prior to Fisher’s death, her permission was presumably obtained. However, reports have emerged of discussions between the makers of Episodes VIII and IX, as Leia had been expected to play a significant part in both films. Apart from the technical challenge, a number of ethical considerations emerged in the wake of Cushing’s “resurrection” in Rogue One, 22 years after his death.

The BBC’s use of the words “continuing appearance” suggested the film-makers were considering using Fisher’s digital image in future films, although there are also other ancillary uses, such as video games.

(13) WHERE LIGHTSPEED SEEMS SLOW. Ty Franck answers questions about the existence of the internet in The Expanse.

Q: Why call them ‘hand terminals?’

A: Because they are not phones. In the universe of The Expanse, we are living in the true internet of things. Nearly every object more complex than a hair brush is a smart or semi-smart device connected to the network around it. The hand terminal is barely a device, on its own. It has little or no memory or processing power. It is literally just a dumb terminal to give the user access to the network and to the various devices around them. It is a portable UI for operating other things. Which is why when the networks go down, the hand terminals become bricks. You can’t even play that game of angry birds classic you downloaded with your google store coupon.

(14) YOU CAN’T STOP IT, YOU CAN ONLY WATCH IT HAPPEN. Something for you to put on your calendar – “In 2022 we’ll be able to watch an 1,800-year old star collision”.

Before their collision the two stars were too dim to be seen without the aid of an extremely powerful telescope but astronomers expect the collision to increase the brightness of the pair ten thousand fold, making it one of the brightest stars in the heaven for a time. The explosion, known as a Red Nova, will then dissipate and the star will remain visible as a single bright, but duller, dot.

The prediction is based on a study of the two stars, which are orbiting each other in ever decreasing circles and appear to be on course for a collision. Assuming they are correct, it would be the first time such an event was predicted by scientists.

(15) BITE YE. The Santa Clarita Diet, for people with good taste… and people who taste good. Drew Barrymore teases a series coming to Netflix in February. There’s also a gag website: http://santaclaritadiet.com/

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Gregory N. Hullender, John King Tarpinian, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester, with an assist from Bonnie McDaniel.]

Why There Are No Jetpacks in Our Future

For all you fans who are obsessed with this troubling question, Bill Willingham explains why we’ll never have the jetpack future portrayed on pulp magazine covers:

Here’s the thing: we want more safety now than we did then. We expect it. Hell, we demand it…. The problem with jetpacks and flying cars is that they aren’t already 100% safe to all potential users. They don’t get, and never will get, the time to develop and perfect that we’ve given our airplanes and ground cars. We have our jetpacks and flying cars and we simply aren’t going to use them….

In his Known Space series of novels and stories, the vastly talented and industrious science fiction author Larry Niven created a race of aliens called the Pierson’s Puppeteers. …They are a species of genetic and cultural cowards. More than anything else they are motivated by the desire, by the all-encompassing need, to be safe….

I’m afraid that’s who we’ve chosen to become… We had our chance at a jetpack future but turned them down.

Better find my unbreakable mirror and count my heads….

[Thanks to David Klaus for the link.]

Did You Blink and Miss the Future?

Whether your vision of the future dates back to Frank R. Paul’s covers for Amazing Stories, or the 1964 World’s Fair, it takes only a simple look out the window to see those dreams didn’t come true. However, CNN’s article “Why our ‘amazing’ science fiction future fizzled” is much more entertaining than most articles that begin with this pedestrian comparison. Author John Blake reminds everyone how many of these technical marvels were actually invented and why not using them as envisioned has been a good thing:

The jet pack, though, has never really taken off, Wilson says. The problem is its practical application. While a rocket belt could propel a screaming human to 60 mph in seconds, its fuel lasted for only about half a minute, “which led to more screaming,” Wilson says.

The military couldn’t find a useful application for it either. A soldier with a jet pack might look cool, but he’s an easy target. Nor could a jet pack be of use to ordinary people who wanted to avoid rush-hour traffic, Wilson says. Jet-packing hordes could transform the skies into an aerial demolition derby, with air rage and drunk drivers turned into wobbly human torpedoes.

Royal Gorge, Not Steve Canyon

David Klaus spotted this report of a jet pack pilot flying across a vast Colorado canyon:

A daredevil wearing a jet pack has flown across a 1,500-foot-wide canyon in southern Colorado. The sponsoring Go Fast Sports & Beverage says Eric Scott took 21 seconds to cross the Royal Gorge at 75 mph on Monday. It says he didn’t use a parachute while flying across the 1,100-foot-deep canyon.

David thinks “It sounds like something Homer Simpson would do, resulting in him bouncing and smashing down the canyon wall, but no, somebody really has done it, and safely. Maybe a few of us will commute with jetpacks at that. Me? I just want to do like Commando Cody did in Radar Men from the Moon and fly over the Valley from Studio City to Granada Hills.”

New Jetpack Startup

Martin Jetpack

Whether the Martin Jetpack even deserves the name is controversial:

The fact that the device reached no more than 6 ft. of altitude during its various test runs at Oshkosh could indicate that it’s not achieving true flight, but a limited amount of lift, due to a phenomenon called “ground effect.” Spinning blades can create a cushion of air below a vehicle, which is how hovercrafts glide across the water.

That, and other abuse is being heaped on the startup by its competitors, in a Popular Mechanics article.

David Klaus forwarded the link along with his own comments:

More breathy coverage of the fledgling commercial jetpack industry. I remember Linda Bushyager once saying about the NASFiC, “It was an idea whose time should never have come.” Whether that applies here, further deponent sayeth not. Best comment I ever saw about jetpacks: comic book scene in which the Atom stares, jaw-dropped, as the villain escapes and says, “Wow. Jetpack Hitler. Reality has jumped the shark.”