Pixel Scroll 3/2/17 Doing The Trilogy Backwards

(1) RECURSIVE NEWS. The Large Hadron Collider gets a pixel tracker.

Officials said the replacement of a key component inside the CMS experiment represented the first major upgrade to the LHC – the world’s biggest machine.

Engineers have been carefully installing the new “pixel tracker” in CMS in a complex and delicate procedure on Thursday 100m underground….

More than 1,200 “dipole” magnets steer the beam around a 27km-long circular tunnel under the French-Swiss border. At certain points around the ring, the beams cross, allowing collisions to take place. Large experiments like CMS and Atlas then record the outcomes of these encounters, generating more than 10 million gigabytes of data every year.

The CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) pixel tracker is designed to disentangle and reconstruct the paths of particles emerging from the collision wreckage.

“It’s like substituting a 66 megapixel camera with a 124 megapixel camera,” Austin Ball, technical co-ordinator for the CMS experiment, told BBC News.

In simple terms, the pixel detector takes images of particles which are superimposed on top of one another, and then need to be separated.

(2) COLLECTING THE CURE. A bidder paid top dollar for a moldy piece of history.

The mold in question — which actually outpaced early expectations to be sold for a whopping $14,617, according to The Associated Press — is a capsule of the original Penicillium chrysogenum Alexander Fleming was working with when he discovered the antibiotic penicillin. Encased in a glass disc, inscribed with the words “the mould that first made Penicillin,” and signed by Fleming himself, the little sample comes from the collection of Fleming’s niece, Mary Anne Johnston.

(3) GOLD RUSS. James Davis Nicoll has the panelists reading “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ at Young People Read Old SFF.

With this story we enter the 1970s, the last decade in the Young People project . I knew which story I wanted to begin the decade with: Joanna Russ’ 1972 Nebula-winner “When It Changed”. Noted author and critic Russ’s story is a reply to such classics as Poul Anderson’s Virgin Planet, stories in which planets populated entirely by women are granted that most precious of treasures, a man and his unsolicited advice. Russ was not always entirely pleased by the status quo. Subtle hints of her displeasure can be detected in this classic first contact tale.

Of course, we live in a modern era of complete equality between the sexes. Who knows if this story can speak to younger people? Let’s find out!

Here’s one participant’s verdict –

….I’d still be willing to suggest that “When It Changed” is the most relevant of all the stories we’ve read so far in this project. I’m sure this is a very hard to believe statement, especially when you compare the story to some of the others we’ve read (i.e. dolphin-people and doomsday don’t-let-the-sun-set cultists), but I’m willing to say it and stand by it, for a few reasons….

(4) DEALING WITH IT. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Business Musings: Writing with Chronic Health Problems” deals with something I’m sure many writers are doing after seeing people’s comments here.

It wasn’t until I got a Fitbit on a lark that exercise became do-not-miss for me. Why? Because I can hit my 10,000 steps even when I’m sick. I shuffle around the house like the walking dead, determined to hit that magic number, because I’m anal, and because finishing my steps every day before midnight is something I can control.

The knee injury got in the way. I made my doctor give me a schedule and benchmarks so that I wouldn’t start up again too soon, but also so that I would start as soon as I could. He thought I was nuts, but he did it. And I followed it, even though I didn’t want to. (I wanted to hobble around the house to hit that magic 10,000 steps.) Even with an injured knee, I got 3,000-4,000 steps per day (using crutches), because I really can’t sit down for very long.

It drives me crazy.

So why am I telling you all of this? This is a writing blog, right?

Because dozens of you have asked me, both privately and in comments, how I write with a chronic health condition.

There really is a trick to the writing while chronically ill. But the trick is personal, and it’s tailored to each individual person.

So, more personal stories—and then tips.

(5) MoPOP. Nominations for next year’s inductees to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame are being taken from the public through April 16.

We’ve opened up our Hall of Fame nominations to the public so that you can choose the creations (e.g. a movie, video game, book, comic/graphic novel, superhero, etc.) and creators (e.g. director, actor, writer, animator, composer, etc.) that have most inspired you!

MoPOP also says the public will be able to vote for the selected finalists later this year, although it’s unclear what impact that vote will have. The website says —

Founded in 1996, the Hall of Fame was relocated from the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas to its permanent home at MoPOP in 2004. Nominations are accepted from the public and the final inductees are chosen by a committee of industry experts.

A public was invited to vote was taken on last year’s nominees, too, but as it says above, selected experts chose the inductees.

(6) NEBULA NOMINEE. Brooke Bolander, who calls this “sputtering,” writes a pretty good thank-you: “Nebula Finalist Frenzy, or: IT HAPPENED AGAIN WTF BBQ”.

Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies,” my thousand-word rage bark published in Uncanny Magazine, is a finalist for the Best Short Story Nebula. Again, to everyone who put it on their ballot: holy shit, thank you so goddamned much. I was helping clean up after a family funeral when I got the call, so to say that I needed that good news is a grave and frankly insulting understatement to the gift you all handed me. I didn’t expect to get on the ballot last year. I figured it was probably the last time I’d be within six city blocks of a ballot for a long, long time, if ever. Is being a finalist again so soon intimidating? You’d better fuckin’ believe it, buster. Is trying to figure out how I am going to follow this up absolutely bowel-twistingly terrifying, the fear that I’ll never write anything else worthwhile once again lurking at the edges of my internal narrative like a shadow beneath a 1 AM streetlamp? DING DING DING.

(7) SURVIVOR. Pat Cadigan is deeply reflective in this installment of “Still Making Cancer My Bitch”.

…At the same time, however, it’s a little spooky to think that, had my cancer followed its standard course––had I not gotten so extremely lucky––I wouldn’t be here now. And the two friends I lost were supposed to be living their lives as usual. John Lennon once pointed out that life is what happens while you’re making other plans. Truer words were never spoken.

A few days ago, I had started writing a post about survivor guilt. There have been a few posts I found very difficult and uncomfortable to write but this one was impossible. I have seldom written nonfiction; it’s really not my metier. I did write two nonfiction books in the late 1990s, one about the making of Lost In Space and another a year later about the making of The Mummy; they were assignments I lucked into and I think they turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. But I digress.

Survivor guilt is one of those things easier felt than explained––easier done than said, if you will. You can’t write about it without sounding like you’re fishing for comfort: Please forgive me for still being alive. You know people are going to tell you that you have nothing to feel guilty about. Except for the few whom you secretly suspect don’t forgive you.

Personally, I’ve always thought of survivor guilt as something suffered by people who have been through terrible catastrophes––natural disasters, mass transit crashes, explosions, wars. These people have been through extreme trauma and injury themselves. So claiming I have survivor guilt sounds self-aggrandising. The truth is, I’ve never been in pain and thanks to my family and my ongoing support system of friends far and wide, I’ve never felt alone or like I had no one to talk to.

What I’m feeling is more like survivor embarrassment. It’s like this: you find out you’re terminal, and you make a big deal out of it, because what the hell, it is a big deal, to you anyway. Then, holy guacamole! Things take a completely unexpected swerve and it turns out you’re not as terminal as they thought. You’re not exactly well, not in remission, but you’re stable and you’re not leaving any time soon unless someone drops a house on you. (And even then, it would probably depend on the house.)

(8) BEAR NECESSITIES. Worldcon 75 has received a 5000 € grant from Art Promotion Centre Finland. If you read Finnish, you can find out the details in the organization’s press release.

(9) ROCK SOLID EVIDENCE. “Oldest fossil ever found on Earth shows organisms thrived 4.2bn years ago”. The Telegraph has the story.

Oldest fossil ever found on Earth shows organisms thrived 4.2bn years ago

It’s life, but not as we know it. The oldest fossil ever discovered on Earth shows that organisms were thriving 4.2 billion years ago, hundreds of millions of years earlier than previously thought.

The microscopic bacteria, which were smaller than the width of a human hair, were found in rock formations in Quebec, Canada, but would have lived in hot vents in the 140F (60C) oceans which covered the early planet.

The discovery is the strongest evidence yet that similar organisms could also have evolved on Mars, which at the time still had oceans and an atmosphere, and was being bombarded by comets which probably brought the building blocks of life to Earth.

….Space expert Dr Dan Brown of Nottingham Trent University added: “The discovery is exciting since it demonstrates how quickly life can form if the conditions are right on a planet or moon.

“This makes it clear to me that as soon as we find conditions on an exoplanet that would favour life as we know it, the probability of finding some form of life on that planet is very high. However, we are not talking about little green aliens but about microorganisms.

(10) ABSTRACT THINKING. Click here for the table of contents of the March issue of Science Fiction Studies which brings us, among other headscratchers, Thomas Strychacz’ “The Political Economy of Potato Farming in Andy Weir’s The Martian” —

Abstract. This essay examines the diverse political-economic registers of Andy Weir’s The Martian (2011) in terms of its symbolic response to the material and ideological crises of the Great Recession. The 2008 financial collapse in the US led to millions losing their homes and posed a serious challenge to the legitimacy of mainstream economic principles. Published at the height of the crisis, and concerning itself with the monumental challenge of bringing just one person home, the novel writes contested economic discourses into cultural fable. On Mars, Mark Watney’s potato farming evokes the paradigmatic neoclassical economic figure of homo economicus, the self-interested, maximizing agent who constantly prioritizes competing choices in order to allocate scarce resources rationally. NASA’s Earth, conversely, is a fantastic world of “unlimited funding” where, overturning two centuries of (neo)classical economic principle, “every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out” (Weir 368-69). The novel’s confused attempts to reconcile homo economicus with a workable concept of the common good can be historicized. Other prominent documents of the recessionary era—the US government’s official Report on the Financial Crisis and Occupy Wall Street’s Declaration among them—manifest the same yearning to restore a vanishing sense of commonwealth.

(11) REVENGE OF THE SON OF THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW CLARKE. Two more shortlists from Shadow Clarke jurors.

One of the things I wanted to do with my shortlist was to explore the idea of the Arthur C. Clarke Award as an institution that challenges the near-monopoly that genre publishing has over not only the field’s annual hype cycle but also over the construction of literary excellence. Traditionally, the Clarke Award has filled this role by smuggling a few choice mainstream titles over the ghetto walls but what if those disruptive tendencies were allowed to manifest themselves more fully? What if the Clarke Award came to represent genre publishing industry’s systematic failure to drive the genre forwards?

In order to come up with a deliberately counter-cultural shortlist, I made several passes through the submissions list in order to rule things out before making more positive choices about the things I wanted to read and write about:

…Second pass: Genre publishing has slowly developed a near-monopoly on the means through which individual works acquire a word-of-mouth buzz. This monopoly is partly a result of publishers and authors developing direct relationships with reviewers and partly a result of critics and reviewers losing influence in the age of Goodreads and Amazon reviews. With most of genre culture’s systems of recommendation skewed in favour of genre imprints and established genre authors, I chose to prioritise works that were either produced outside of conventional genre culture or which have been marginalised by genre publishing and forced towards smaller publishing venues….

…The task of compiling a shortlist is slightly different for the shadow Clarke juror, because there is more scope to set a personal agenda. What do I want my shortlist to be? This question came into sharp focus when I looked at the list of submissions, and realised that I wouldn’t want to shortlist any of the books that I’d already read.

So I have had to fall back on books that I would like to read. On that basis, I decided to orient my shortlist around the idea of discovery, focusing primarily on authors I hadn’t read much before, and taking note of a few strong recommendations from trusted sources….

Mark-kitteh sent the links along with these comments: “I did a spot of tallying up:

  • The Underground Railroad — Colson Whitehead 5
  • Central Station — Lavie Tidhar 4
  • A Field Guide to Reality?— Joanna Kavenna 4
  • The Many Selves of Katherine North?—?Emma Geen 3
  • The Power — Naomi Alderman 3
  • The Gradual?— Christopher Priest 3

“Which conveniently makes a potential shortlist of 6. It’s unlikely to be the final result, but the jurors seem to have more to agree on than to disagree.

“They are followed by another 7 chosen by two jurors, plus 10 singletons with a lone champion. Nick Hubble has the honour of being the only juror with at least one other agreeing with all his choices.”

(12) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Monopoly Board Games produced after September 2008 come with $20,580 in play money. Standard editions produced before that came with $15,140.

(13) TODAY’S DAY

Today is Dr. Seuss Day, a full twenty-four hours to make a mess with the Cat in the Hat, dance around with the Fox in Sox, hear a Who with Horton, count the red and blue fish, help the Grinch see the error of his ways, and listen to Sam I Am’s friend complain about his dish of green eggs and ham, the ungrateful hairball!

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

(15) EARLY BARR. At Galactic Journey, Victoria Silverwolf has an eye for talent — “[March 1,1962] Hearts and Flowers (April 1962 Fantastic)”:

Appropriately, The April 1962 issue of Fantastic is full of romance, along with the sense of wonder demanded by readers of speculative fiction.

Before we get to the mushy stuff, however, Judith Merril offers us a mysterious look at The Shrine of Temptation.  George Barr’s beautiful cover art appears to have inspired this ambiguous tale of good, evil, and strange rituals.  Barr’s work has appeared in a handful of fanzines for a few years, but I believe this is his first professional publication.  Based on the quality of this painting, I believe the young artist has a fine career ahead of him.

(16) IT’S MERVEILLEUX. At The New York Review of Science Fiction: “Brian Stableford: Madme De Villaneuve and the Origins of the Fantasy Novel”

The first concerted attempt to define and characterize a genre of fantasy fiction was made by Charles-Joseph Mayer between 1785 and 1789 when he published the 41 exemplary volumes of Le Cabinet des fées, ou Collection choisie des contes de fées et autres contes merveilleux [The Cabinet of the Fairies, or, Selected Collection of Fairy Tales and Other Marvelous Tales] in parallel with Charles Garnier’s Voyages imaginaires, songes, visions et romans cabalistiques [Imaginary Voyages, Dreams, Visions, and Cabalistic Fiction]. The latter is now regarded as most significant for the volumes containing imaginary voyages that can be affiliated in retrospect to the nascent genre of roman scientifique [scientific fiction] but, as the full title illustrates, it contains a good deal of material that would nowadays be considered to belong to the fantasy genre, and some of the items, such as Madame Roumier-Robert’s “Les Ondins, conte moral” (1768; tr. as “The Water-Sprites”) would have been perfectly at home in Mayer’s collection. It was, however, Mayer’s assembly that identified the two principal strands of the genre of the merveilleux as the mock folktales that became fashionable in the literary salons of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in association with the court of Louis XIV and tales written in imitation of Antoine Galland’s collection of Les Mille-et-une nuits (1707–19), which claimed to be translations of Arabian folklore, although many of the inclusions are drastically rewritten from the original manuscripts or wholly invented by Galland.

(17) PULLMAN. In “Paradise regained: ‘His Dark Materials’ is even better than I remembered”, the Financial Times’ Nilanjana Roy uses the forthcoming publication of The Book of Dust to discuss how she read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy ten years ago and how much she enjoyed these books. (The article is behind a paywall; the link is to a Google cache which can be read after taking a survey.)

The first in the trilogy is the most memorably dazzling, a classic quest story where the young Lyra travels to the north, befriending armoured bears and witch-queens. She has a daemon, Pantalaimon — most people in her world do, the daemon being an animal who is the external manifestation of a person’s inner spirit — and that is what I remembered most about the trilogy. When His Dark Materials came out, most of my friends abandoned their dignity and played games of Guess His Daemon? assigning slinking jackals or brown marmorated stink bug daemons to those they didn’t like.

(18) IT PAYS NOT TO BE IGNORANT. BoingBoing tells about the Norwegian news site that makes readers pass a test proving they read the post before commenting on it.

The team at NRKbeta attributes the civil tenor of its comments to a feature it introduced last month. On some stories, potential commenters are now required to answer three basic multiple-choice questions about the article before they’re allowed to post a comment. (For instance, in the digital surveillance story: “What does DGF stand for?”)

(19) THE CULTURE WARS.  Yes, it’s Buzzfeed – perhaps someday you’ll forgive me. “This Far-Right Tweet About ‘The Future That Liberals Want’ Backfired Into A Huge Meme”. A lot of tweets have been gathered in this post – here are three examples, the tweet that started everything, one of the pushback, and a third from the bizarre spinoffs.

(Buzzfeed says the photo was originally posted on @subwaycreatures, where it was used to “showcase the beauty of New York’s diversity.”)

Finally:

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title inspiration credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lis Carey.]

Pixel Scroll 2/2/17 If You Give A Kzin A Kazoo…

(1) LOOKING FOR SHADOWS. Leah Schnelbach’s “Groundhog Day Breaks the Rules of Every Genre” is a masterpiece about one of my favorite movies. (It first appeared on Tor.com in 2014.)

Groundhog Day succeeds as a film because of the way it plays with, subverts, and outright mocks the tropes of each of the genres it flirts with. While some people would call it a time travel movie, or a movie about small town America, or the most spiritual film of all time, or a rom-com, it is by breaking the rules of each of those types of films that it ultimately transcends genre entirely.

(2) SHARKNADO 5. Not sure why Syfy and studio The Asylum picked Groundhog Day to announce there will be a fifth Sharknado movie, unless it’s to wink at the fact they’re doing the same thing over and over again:

The original 2013 “Sharknado” introduced the concept of a shark-laden twister via one bearing down on Los Angeles. In “Sharknado 2: The Second One,” New York City was the target of the disaster, and in “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” a mega-sharknado made its way down the East Coast from Washington, D.C. to Florida. In the most recent installment, the very-close-to-copyright-infringement-titled “Sharknado: The 4th Awakens,” the shark-infested storms went national. The film ended with the Eiffel Tower ripping away from Paris and crashing down on Niagara Falls, setting the stage for the fifth edition of America’s answer to the sprawling sagas of the ancient world.

In “Sharknado 5,” with much of North America lying in ruins, the rest of the world braces for a global sharknado. Fin Shepard (Ziering) and his family must put a stop to this disaster before Earth is obliterated.

(3) TODAY’S SCROLL TITLE. On the other hand, Daniel Dern hopes you will add iterations of your own to his faux children’s book for Filers.

If You Give A Kzin A Kazoo…

whose text perhaps goes…

… he’ll <blatt> and leap.

If a Kzin <blatt>s and leaps,
he’ll rip you from gehenna to duodenum. [1]

If a Kzin rips you from gehenna to duodenum,
well, that’s the end of the story as far as you’re concerned,
unless you’ve got either an autodoc [2] nearby, or have Wolverine-class mutant healing factor.

[1] per Don Marquis, Archie & Mehitabel — Mehitabel on Marriage, IIRC.

[2] and health care insurance that will cover you 🙁

Probably if you put all that in, Filers will contribute a few dozen more verses.

(4) BOMBS AWAY. Before telling the “Five Things I Learned Writing Exo”, Fonda Lee confesses that Exo began life as a failed NanNoWriMo novel. (A guest post at Terrible Minds.)

This is how it went: I wrote 35,000 words by November 20th or so, and stalled out. It wasn’t working. At all. I read the manuscript from the beginning and hated all of it with the nauseous loathing that writers feel when looking at their own disgusting word messes. I had a shiny story idea in my head but it was emerging as dog vomit. So I quit. I failed NaNoWriMo hard.

I trashed everything I’d written and started again. I wrote a new draft over several months, and then rewrote 50% of that one. And did it again. After the book sold, I did another major revision with my editor. I was relieved and excited by how it was getter better and better, but part of me was also surprised and disheartened. I mean, Zeroboxer was picking up accolades and awards, and whoa, I got to go to the Nebula Awards as a finalist and dance on stage, so why the hell was it so hard to write another book?! This whole writing thing ought to be easier now, right?

Wrong. In talking (griping, whining, crying) to wiser authors, I learned there was wide agreement that the second book is often a complete bitch to write. A very loud voice in your head is telling you that because you’re now a Published Author, you should be writing better and faster, plus doing author promotion stuff with an effortless grin.

(5) REMEMBERING PAN. J. M. Barrie was one of several authors who put science-related observation into fantasies. The BBC tells you about it: “What Peter Pan teaches us about memory and consciousness”.

In this way, the stories appear to follow a tradition of great cross-pollination between the arts and the sciences – particularly in children’s literature. Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies was written, in part, as a response to Darwin’s theory of evolution, while Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland were a playful exploration of mathematics and logic. Even some of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales were inspired by new scientific and technological developments – such as the invention of the home microscope.

(6) A LARGER-THAN-EXPECTED COLLISION. The Large Hadron Collider didn’t end the world, as some cranks feared, but it did end this creature: “World’s Most Destructive Stone Marten Goes On Display In The Netherlands”

On Nov. 20, 2016, the animal hopped over a fence at the $7 billion Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, touched a transformer and was electrocuted by 18,000 volts.

The marten died instantly. The collider, which accelerates particles to near the speed of light to study the fiery origins of the universe, lost power and shut down.

“There must have been a big flame,” said Kees Moeliker, the director of the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam and the man behind its Dead Animal Tales exhibit, where the preserved marten is now displayed.

“It was scorched. When you’re not really careful with candles and your hair, like that,” he explained. “Every hair of this creature was kind of burned and the whiskers, they were burned to the bare minimum and especially the feet, the legs, they were cooked. They were darker, like roasted.”

“It really had a bad, bad encounter with this electricity.”

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Marten furs were once sufficiently tradable that Croatia’s currency, the kuna, takes its name from the Croatian word for the beast.“

(7) YOUNG PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. James Davis Nicoll turns the panel loose on Roger Zelazny’s “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”.

I selected 1963’s A Rose for Ecclesiastes for a few reasons. The least important is because I only recently read it myself (the story kept coming up in the context of a grand review project of mine and I got tired of admitting over and over again that I had not read it.). Another is its historical significance: this is one of the last SF stories written before space probes showed us what Mars was really like. The final reason is this story was nominated for a Hugo and I am hopeful that the virtues the readers saw a half century ago are still there.

Let’s find out!

(8) THE FOUNDER. Selected writings by Hugo Gernsback have been compiled in The Perversity of Things: Hugo Gernsback on Media, Tinkering, and Scientifiction, edited by Grant Wythoff. The book was published in November by the University of Minnesota Press.

In 1905, a young Jewish immigrant from Luxembourg founded an electrical supply shop in New York. This inventor, writer, and publisher Hugo Gernsback would later become famous for launching the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in 1926. But while science fiction’s annual Hugo Awards were named in his honor, there has been surprisingly little understanding of how the genre began among a community of tinkerers all drawn to Gernsback’s vision of comprehending the future of media through making. In The Perversity of Things, Grant Wythoff makes available texts by Hugo Gernsback that were foundational both for science fiction and the emergence of media studies.

…The Perversity of Things aims to reverse the widespread misunderstanding of Gernsback within the history of science fiction criticism. Through painstaking research and extensive annotations and commentary, Wythoff reintroduces us to Gernsback and the origins of science fiction.

Bruce Sterling gives the book a powerful endorsement:

Grant Wythoff’s splendid work of scholarship dispels the dank, historic mists of a literary subculture with starkly factual archival research. An amazing vista of electronic media struggle is revealed here, every bit as colorful and cranky as Hugo Gernsback’s pulp magazines—even the illustrations and footnotes are fascinating. I’m truly grateful for this work and will never think of American science fiction in the same way again.

(9) SARAH PRINCE. The family obituary for Sarah Prince, who died last month, appeared in the Plattsburgh (NY) Press-Republican.

Sarah Symonds Prince (born July 11, 1954) died unexpectedly of congestive heart failure in late January in her Keene Valley home. A long time resident and well-loved community member, she was active in the Keene Valley Congregational Church choir and hand bell choir, the town community garden program; she was a former member of the Keene Valley Volunteer Fire Department.

Sarah was an avid photographer and a ceramic artist, and a freelance graphic designer. She was an influential member of the science fiction fan community and publisher (in the 1980s/90s) of her own fanzine. Sarah enjoyed going to interesting places whether around the corner or halfway around the world. She loved the many dogs and cats that were constant companions in her life.

Born in Salem, Mass., Sarah was the third child of David Chandler Prince Jr. and Augusta Alger Prince. She grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she graduated from Walnut Hills High School. Sarah’s love of Keene Valley, N.Y., follows family ties that date back four generations as regular summer visitors.

Sarah graduated from the Ohio State University with a BFA degree. She trained in print layout and typesetting and worked in typesetting, layout and graphic arts for several publications, including Adirondack Life from 1990-93, a job which brought her to live full-time in Keene Valley. A deep curiosity about technology and a sustainable world led Sarah to Clinton Community College to study computer technology and earn an Environmental Science AA degree in May 2016.

Sarah lived with disability from mental illness and substance abuse for many years. She worked to raise awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by herself and others. She positively touched many who were also struggling.

Sarah is survived by her mother, Augusta Prince of Hanover, N.H.; four siblings, Timothy Prince, Catharine Roth, Charlotte Hitchcock, and Virginia Prince; seven nieces and nephews; and six grand nieces and nephews.

Donations in her memory can be made to North Country SPCA or the Keene Valley Library. Arrangements have been entrusted to Heald Funeral Home, 7521 Court Street, Plattsburgh, N.Y. To light a memorial candle or leave an online condolence please visit http://www.healdfuneralhomeinc.com

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 2, 1882 – James Joyce is born .

And that reminds John King Tarpinian of a story:

Sylvia Beach, owner of the bookstore Shakespeare and Co. in Paris, published the novel herself in 1922, but it was banned in the United Kingdom and in the United States until 1933.  Every July Ray Bradbury and his family would vacation in France.  Ray would always visit Shakespeare and Company.  The bookshop would make sure they had a book that Ray wanted, such as first editions of Jules Verne.

(11) CREEPTASTIC. Dread Central reports “Zak Bagan’s Haunted Museum to feature ‘one of the most dangerous paranormal possessions in the world’” — Peggy the Doll.

Excited about visiting Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum when it opens? Of course you are! This latest story though… this latest addition to Zak’s house of madness? Well, it’s going to be up to you whether or not you take your chances and take a look.

Zak has just informed us exclusively that he’s now in possession of the infamous “Peggy the Doll,” which he obtained from its previous owner, Jayne Harris from England. Featured on an episode of his series “Deadly Possessions,” Peggy is not for the faint of heart. It’s said you can be affected by Peggy by just looking at her… in person or in photos. As a result “Deadly Possessions” aired the episode with a disclaimer for viewers: a first for both the show and the paranormal in general.

(12) BUNK. Jason Sanford muses about “An alternate history of alternative histories”:

Ironically, the last book my grandfather read was edited by Poul Anderson, one of our genre’s early authors of alternate histories. Anderson’s Time Patrol stories, where valiant time travelers ensure history stays on its “correct” timeline, are an integral and fun part of SF’s long tradition of time travel fiction focused on keeping history pure. He also wrote a famous series of alternate history fantasies called Operation Chaos, originally published by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the 1950s. In these stories World War II was fought between completely different countries with magical creatures such as werewolves and witches.

Of course, Anderson’s stories of time travelers keeping the timeline pure and correct seem a little simplistic today, just as historical narratives today are far more complex than they were decades ago. I think this is partly because most historians now recognize how imprecisely history is recorded. History as it is written can even be called the original version of the alternate history genre, where the story we’re told deviates from what really happened.

After all, history is written by the victors, as the cliche states. Which means much of what happened in the past is left out or altered before history is recorded. And even the victors don’t name all the victors and don’t celebrate all their victories and deeds.

Theodore Sturgeon famously said that “ninety percent of everything is crap.” This applies equally to history as we know it — including the history of the alternate history genre.

(13) WHITE FLIGHT. Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel, in “Whitey on Mars”, ask if Elon Musk’s Martian proposals are part of a dream by rich and powerful people to further isolate themselves from the masses. (The title references Gil Scott-Heron’s 1970 “Whitey on the Moon.”)

Musk insists that humans in fact ‘need’ to go to Mars. The Mars mission, he argues, is the best way for humanity to become what he calls a ‘space-faring civilisation and a multi-planetary species’. This otherworldly venture, he says, is necessary to mitigate the ‘existential threat’ from artificial intelligence (AI) that might wipe out human life on Earth. Musk’s existential concerns, and his look to other worlds for solutions, are not unique among the elite of the technology world. Others have expressed what might best be understood as a quasi-philosophical paranoia that our Universe is really just a simulation inside a giant computer.

Musk himself has fallen under the sway of the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, who put forward the simulation theory in 2003. Bostrom has also argued that addressing ‘existential risks’ such as AI should be a global priority. The idea that Google’s CEO Larry Page might create artificially intelligent robots that will destroy humanity reportedly keeps Musk up at night. ‘I’m really worried about this,’ Musk told his biographer. ‘He could produce something evil by accident.’

These subjects could provide some teachable moments in certain kinds of philosophy classes. They are, obviously, compelling plot devices for Hollywood movies. They do not, however, bear any relationship to the kinds of existential risks that humans face now, or have ever faced, at least so far in history. But Musk has no connection to ordinary people and ordinary lives. For his 30th birthday, Musk rented an English castle, where he and 20 guests played hide-and-seek until 6am the following day. Compare this situation with the stories recounted in Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted (2016), where an entire housing industry has arisen in the US to profit from the poverty of some families, who often move from home to home with little hope of ever catching up, let alone getting ahead.

(14) COMIC SECTION. Martin Morse Wooster says, “I think today’s Prickly City expresses the dreams of many Filers.”

(15) ANOTHER COUNTRY HEARD FROM. When the next Doctor Who is chosen, one party thinks someone besides a human deserves consideration: “New Doctor Who should be a Dalek, say Daleks”, at The Daily Mash.

The Skaro natives have petitioned the BBC for ‘better representation’ from a show which has historically ‘erased and demonised’ their proud race.

The Supreme Dalek said: “It’s not the 1960s anymore. These narratives about heroic Gallifreyans saving humanoids from extermination are outdated and offensive.

“My son is an eight-year-old New Paradigm Dalek and his eyestalk droops whenever he turns on his favourite show to see that yet again, the Daleks are the baddies.…

(16) WHEN ROBOTS LAY DOWN ON THE JOB. Fynbospress told Mad Genius Club readers about running into a wall while using Word:

Interesting quirk I learned recently on MS Word. Say you have a MilSF novel, and you haven’t added the last names, planets, etc. to the customized dictionary (So they all show as a spelling error). As you’re reading through, it pops up a window saying “there are too many spelling errors in this document to show.” And promptly cuts out the red spelling and blue grammar lines.

(17) INFERNO. JJ says, quite rightly, this photo of the West Kamokuna Skylight in Hawaii resembles sculpture of bodies being sucked into hell.

If lava has the right viscosity, it can travel across a landscape via channels. The lava either forms the channels itself or uses a preexisting one. Along the same vein, lava tubes are essentially channels that reside underground and also allow lava to move quickly. Tubes form one of two ways. A lava channel can form an arc above it that chills and crystallizes, or an insulated pahoehoe flow can have lava still running through it while outer layers freeze. Lava tubes, by their nature, are buried. However, skylights form when the lava tube collapses in a specific area and allow one to see the flow inside the tube. Tubes can collapse completely and become channels, drain out, or get blocked up.

(18) FROM BC TO DC. CinemaBlend thinks the critical success of the DC Extended Universe hinges on the forthcoming Wonder Woman movie.

While Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice struggled to please critics, most agreed that Gal Gadot’s performance as Wonder Woman was one of its few shining lights. It’s hoped that the opportunity to explore the character even more, as well as take a peak at her origin story, will help to propel the DC Extended Universe forward, especially considering all of its recent troubles regarding both its releases and the films it has in development.

 

💛 💛 💛 #wonderwoman @WonderWomanFilm

A post shared by Gal Gadot (@gal_gadot) on

(19) I’M OUT. It may look like a chocolate chip thumbscrew, but it’s Dunking Buddy!

why_cookie_tray_medium

What if there was an easier, cleaner, more enjoyable way to enjoy dunking cookies in milk. Well the world is finally in luck, and based on the response so far, it couldn’t have come sooner! Two cookie dunking lovers, like so many others out there, took it upon themselves and created a cookie dunking device that does just that!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Moshe Feder, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

 

Pixel Scroll 4/9/16 Little Old Lady Got Nominated Late Last Night

(1) HERE’S THE PLOT. Ursula Vernon cultivates history in her garden. Read “Sowing History: A Gardener’s Tale” at Tor.com.

When people think of gardeners, many of them tend to picture little old ladies in straw hats with bright green gloves, pottering among the roses.

When people think of gardeners who are also children’s book authors, they go straight to Beatrix Potter and assume that not only are these little old ladies in straw hats pottering among the roses, but they are also greeting the friendly woodland creatures by name—“Hello, Mister Robin! You’re looking very feathery today!” “Why, Missus Tiggywinkle, how have you been?” “Oh dear, that naughty little cottontail has been at my lettuces again!”

Well, I am a gardener and a children’s book author. I am also under forty, tattooed, and the owner of a mostly black wardrobe, and when I greet a happy woodland creature by name, there is an excellent chance that the sentence will end with “touch that and I will end you.”

(2) THE FIRST STAR WARS FANS. The Skywalking Through Neverland podcast discusses “The Early Days of Star Wars Fandom with Craig Miller”.

Our spe­cial guest Craig Miller was the Pub­li­cist and Direc­tor of Fan Rela­tions for Lucas­film dur­ing the hey-day of the 70’s and 80’s. Ever won­der how fans knew what was going on in fan­dom before social media? Whose job was it to tell the world about this new movie called Star Wars? Craig shares some awe­some stories.

 

episod116square Craig Miller

(3) KAMERON HURLEY. Asked where his inspiration came from, lyricist Sammy Cahn said “When the check arrives.” Kameron Hurley’s check has arrived, but she explains what else she needs besides, in “Kameron Hurley: Cultivating Inspiration on Deadline” at Locus Online.

Instead of spending all that time feeling guilty about what I wasn’t doing and scrolling through Twitter, I needed to release myself from the ‘‘I should be writing’’ mentality and let my brain start connect­ing things on its own. I found that the more I actively thought about plot problems, the less my brain wanted to fix them. It kept trying to avoid the problems I’d put to it. For instance, instead of fixing a plot problem on my current book, my brain recently offered up a solution to a subplot problem in the next book I’ll be working on. At some point I have to give in and let my brain make the connections it needs to make, without getting in its way. More and more, I have to let my brain go more than I’m used to, or it just retreads the same old story paths.

I would like to tell you that giving up everything to write is the only way to write. I enjoy spouting that whole ‘‘fall on your sword’’ advice time and time again. Giving up activities that waste your time while you should be writing is beneficial, but I can only burn hard like I have for so long before the flame gutters out. I don’t want to be that writer who just writes the same story over and over again.

(4) A LECKIE FANTASY. Rachel Swirsky’s April 8 Friday Fiction Recommendation is “Marsh Gods” by Ann Leckie.

I’m a fan of Ann’s fantasy universe in which gods must be careful to speak the truth, lest they lose their power. I hope we get longer work in it someday, or at least more. (Publishers: Hint, hint.)

Read “Marsh Gods” at Strange Horizons, or listen at PodCastle.

(5) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE. There was a bit of drama during “Day 5 – Writers of the Future Volume 32 Workshop”.

First up was Liza Trombi from Locus Magazine, the foremost professional publication in science fiction and fantasy literature. She discussed Locus, and then moved on to the vagaries of self-publishing, traditional publishing, and going hybrid. Liza recommended trying traditional publishing before attempting self-publishing. She also mentioned that publishing your first novel is rare, and that the best thing you can do for your future writing career is to always be writing a new book.

Robert J. Sawyer was up after Liza. With fresh copies of Locus in the winner’s hands, Robert took the opportunity to point out that his latest book, while having been well reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly and the Washington Post, was disliked by Locus. And while the book is doing extremely well, the reality is that someone will always dislike your work. He stressed that you should never write to please everyone because you never will. Your job, he says, is to identify what it is you do. You should know what your brand is as a writer, and write to please those people.

(6) WRITERS OF THE PRESENT. The bestselling authors are walking between the raindrops at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this weekend.

Stan Lee kept dry.

Other ornaments to our genre were on hand.

No Scalzi food photo today, but it played an important part on the program.

He also found time to practice his starship hijacking skills, on a modest scale.

(7) BINDER FULL OF LETTERS. Doug Ellis shares a few more historic letters in his post “Otto Binder on H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard” at Black Gate.

In late December 1935, science fiction author Otto Binder moved from Chicago to NYC to represent Otis Adelbert Kline’s literary agency. Among the authors he represented for Kline’s agency was Robert E. Howard. Binder had been to NYC previously, in late June and early July 1935, with his friends Clifford Kornoelje (better known in SF circles as Jack Darrow) and Bill Dellenback.

As I’ve mentioned before, back in 2001 I bought a few boxes of correspondence from Darrow’s estate, including dozens of letters that Binder had written to Darrow over the course of many decades. In going through them last month, I pulled this one and thought I’d post it today.

Once in NYC, Otto quickly resumed his friendships with Mort Weisinger and Charles Hornig, and rapidly met more figures involved in the local science fiction community. Less than two weeks after he’d arrived, he was invited to a gathering at Frank Belknap Long’s place, which was held on Friday, January 3, 1936. Binder and Long were fellow Weird Tales authors, with Binder and his brother, Earl, having sold WT some stories under their Eando Binder penname.

Among the others at the party were Donald and Howard Wandrei, Kenneth Sterling and, most interestingly of all, H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft impressed Binder greatly, as he relates in this letter to Darrow dated January 12, 1936. That would have been some gathering to attend!

(8) HAMPUS, IS THAT YOU? Not a toll-free call! CNN has the story: “The Swedish Number: Random Swedes are waiting to hear from you”.

Are you there, Sweden? It’s us, the world.

To mark the 250th anniversary of Sweden’s abolition of censorship, the Swedish Tourist Association has launched a phone number connecting global callers with random Swedes.

Think Chatroulette meets the United Nations.

Sweden’s new ambassadors don’t receive any training and their time is voluntary. They simply download the Swedish Number app, register their number, and signal their availability by switching themselves on or off.

As for the cost of ringing up, it’s charged as an international call so check with your provider before chatting with your new Swedish buddies late into the night.

There have been nearly 14,000 calls since the service launched on April 6, with nearly a third coming from the U.S. and a fifth from Turkey.

(9) GAME MAKER YIELDS. Crave reports “Baldur’s Gate Developer States They Will Change Trans Character and Remove GamerGate Joke”.

After an inexplicable amount of press was placed upon their team by angry gamers, Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear‘s developer Beamdog has stated that they will be altering the dialogue of transgender character Mizhena in a future update, along with removing a reference to GamerGate.

In the game, which is an expansion to the original Baldur’s Gate, there is a line of dialogue in which minor NPC Mizhena explains the origins of her name, revealing to the player that although being born a boy, she and her parents “came to understand [she] was truly a woman” later in life. This entire exchange, which is limited to four sentences, led to the game being bombarded with negative user reviews online, despite critical reviews of the game being positive. Another point of contention for its detractors was a line at the expense of GamerGate, in which popular character Minsc says “really, it’s all about ethics in heroic adventuring.”

(10) CARPENTER ON GALAKTIKA PAYMENT OFFER. Anna Grace Carpenter, who surfaced the story (“Galaktika Magazine: Theft on a Massive Scale”) expresses her views about Galaktika’s response in “Galaktika Magazine: By Way of Explanation”.

Let me pause for a moment and say that the offer of compensation is a step in the right direction. However, neither Mr. Burger or Mr. Németh have addressed the underlying issue.

This is a chronic and widespread issue of theft. It is not just the stories published in 2015 (of which there are many), but work that was published as far back as 2008….

This pattern is more than a lack of diligence or caution or speed on the part of the publishing staff at Galaktika. It is not an occasional oversight or misunderstanding of previous contracts. This is habitual theft.

Remember that the vast majority of these authors never submitted their work for consideration, there was no implication of giving their permission for the translation and publication of their stories in Galaktika. Rather, their work was copied from other, paying publications online without any attempt to contact the original publisher, editor or author, and then printed for profit in Galaktika. That is not a mistake, that is theft.

Cat Rambo, current president of SFWA, said she is still trying to obtain a copy of István Burger’s statement in English and there are still questions to be answered. (How soon can authors expect to receive payment? Will authors be able to request their work be pulled from Galaktika? Will Galaktika contact all those involved to arrange compensation or will they put the responsibility on the individual to contact them and make a claim?)

And the question remains, what will Mr. Burger and Mr. Németh do going forward?

(11) DRAGON AWARDS DISCUSSION CONTINUES.

Deby Fredericks on “The Dragon Awards” at Wyrmflight.

One of the distinctions I believe Dragon Con is trying to make, is that the existing prestigious awards are decided by a limited number of people — a jury, members of a particular convention or group — while the Dragon Awards will be nominated and voted by all fans. This sounds fair and noble, but I’m remembering that time when DC let fans vote on whether Robin should be killed by the Joker. They were aghast that fans wanted Robin dead. Was the outcome fair? Perhaps. But was it noble?

Already, some in the community responsible for the Hugo Awards Kerfluffle have been heard to gloat that now they will win because no bunch of snobs can vote them down. As you probably can tell, I’m a little tired of hearing privileged majorities play the dismartyrdom card. We’ll all find out in time.

I don’t necessarily agree that SF/media/everything needs another set of awards. However, I do believe Dragon Con is a large enough and inclusive enough organization to credibly present such an award. It will be interesting to see the outcome, and where it aligns or doesn’t align with the other awards.

Brian K. Lowe posted about “The Dragon Awards” at Graffiti on the Walls of Time.

“Another trophy,” you say, possibly enthusiastically, perhaps dismissively, maybe with a touch of boredom. Or maybe you say it with an appraising tone, as do we authors who think, “Hey, there’s another award I can aspire to (and probably never win)…” Regardless of your personal reaction, the awards are here and presumably they’re going to stick around a while. (America’s thirst for awards ceremonies is almost as impossible to slake as its thirst for reality shows, or sleazy political drama. If it ain’t a competition, we’re not interested.)

All of these reactions are quite understandable. What I don’t understand is those who believe that this development somehow spells trouble for the Hugo Awards given out every year by the aforementioned Worldcon.

Cirsova takes the whole thing rather less than completely seriously in “Genrefication and Dragon Awards”.

This isn’t a victory, unless your aim is creating genre ghettos.

In response, I propose an alternative.  If I ever get the reach to make such an endeavor feasible, I will give you the Brackett Awards:

  • Categories will include, but are not limited to, in Long and Short Form:
  • Best Space Princess/Classiest Dame
  • Most Dashing Swordsman/Gunman
  • Creepiest Monster/Alien
  • Most Exotic/Erotic Xeno-hominid
  • Best Explosion
  • Coolest Spaceship
  • Best Empire (domineering, crumbling or otherwise)

Will these categories end up punishing certain books under the SFF umbrella?  Probably, but not the most awesome ones.

Ian Mond says live and let live at Hysterical Hamster.

And a day or so ago Dragon Con launched its own genre awards.  To reflect the size of the con there’s about fifty billion categories ranging from best Apocalyptic fiction (my personal favourite) to Best episode in a continuing science fiction or fantasy series, TV or internet (take a deep breath).  I don’t begrudge any organisation, individual or entity organising and administering their own awards.  More power to them.  Personally though, I think I’ll give this one a miss.

Martin C. Wilsey’s sentiments about “The Dragon Awards” are shorter but not as sweet.

Well it was bound to happen. The Hugo Awards process corruption scandal has finally led to the inevitable conclusion. A new award that has fairness baked in. The Dragon Awards.

–Let’s hope that this award is all about quality of the fiction.

(12) RECAP. I don’t watch Sleepy Hollow so it’s hard to explain how I got sucked into reading this spoiler-filled recap of the final episode. This paragraph will give you the gist of what SciFi4Me felt about it:

Bloody Hell. I don’t know what they are thinking. And I don’t know how a show based on such a flimsy premise could jump the shark, but they did.

(13) DEAN KAMEN. The inventor of the Segway is the son of E.C. Comics’ Jack Kamen. Read about “Inventor Dean Kamen’s Big Ideas” in the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Kamen, 65, is known for coming up with the Segway (the two-wheeled electric vehicle), the iBot (a stair-climbing wheelchair) and a portable dialysis machine. He considers the First Robotics Competition, now in its 25th season, one of his best ideas yet…

In the competition, teams of students have six weeks to build a robot from scratch. The robots must then complete various tasks, working in teams. In this year’s challenge, they have to get through their opponents’ fortifications and take over territory in a space set up to look like a medieval battlefield with castles and towers. More than 400,000 students are competing this year, up from about 100 in 1992. “More and more, kids are starting to see that technology is cool. It’s not for nerds,” he says.

Mr. Kamen grew up a self-described nerd in New York’s Long Island, the son of a comic-book illustrator and a teacher. His engineering career started early; in high school, he earned more than $50,000 a year for designing and installing light and sound systems for musicians and museums.

Mr. Kamen, who is unmarried and doesn’t have children, spends most of his time working. “I get up in the morning, and I start working, then I keep working until I can’t work anymore, then I fall asleep,” he says. His idea of a vacation is going from one project to another when he’s stuck.

(14) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 9, 1833: First tax-supported U.S. public library founded, Peterborough, New Hampshire
  • April 9, 1959: NASA introduced first seven astronauts to press.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 9, 1926 – Hugh Hefner.

(16) KEEPING THE HARD IN HADRON. Ladies and gentlemen, the LEGO Particle Accelerator! JK Brickworks says —

This is a working particle accelerator built using LEGO bricks. I call it the LBC (Large Brick Collider). It can accelerate a LEGO soccer ball to just over 12.5 kilometers per hour.

 

(17) A CASE OF PHYSLEXIA. As most of you already guessed, I picked the previous item’s headnote because it references a typo that made news this week.

The BBC get overexcited by the world’s largest atom smasher.

 

(18) ATARI FLASHBACK. RPF Pulse brings us “The Art of ATARI Book Preview Images”.

Co-written by Robert V. Conte and Tim Lapetino, The Art of Atari includes a comprehensive retrospective collecting game production and concept artwork, photos, marketing art, with insight from key people involved in Atari’s rich history, and behind-the-scenes details on how dozens of games featured within were conceived, illustrated, approved (or rejected), and brought to life!

Includes a special Foreword by New York Times bestseller Ernst Cline, author of Armada and Ready Player One, soon to be a motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg.

Atari is a touchstone for many people. Their games and game system exposed many to video games for the first time. Whether you’re a fan, collector, enthusiast, or new to the world of Atari, this book offers the most complete collection of Atari artwork ever produced!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ,and Soon Lee for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Large Hadron Collider Back on Track, Mostly

Electromagnet in the Large Hadron Collider

Electromagnet in the Large Hadron Collider

“More than a year after an explosion of sparks, soot and frigid helium shut it down,” begins Dennis Overbye’s New York Times essay, “the world’s biggest and most expensive physics experiment, known as the Large Hadron Collider, is poised to start up again…”

But not without incident. Eweek reported on December 3 there have been thorns among the roses:

The problem-plagued Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which has suffered a series of setbacks and mechanical breakdowns, is reportedly back in operational mode after suffering a power failure [on December 2] due to a blown 18 kilovolt power connection….

(A spokeswoman told Eweek there was also an incident in November when power loss was triggered by something dropped by a bird.) 

While there have been setbacks, CERN scientists have had much to celebrate: Last week, the LHC set a world record by becoming the world’s highest energy particle accelerator, having accelerated its twin beams of protons to an energy of 1.18 teraelectronvolts (TeV). The speed exceeded the previous world record of 0.98 TeV, which had been held by the U.S. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory’s Tevatron collider since 2001.

The writer for the Times is looking forward to when the collider can run its full slate of experiments:

Then it will be time to test one of the most bizarre and revolutionary theories in science…  I’m talking about the notion that the troubled collider is being sabotaged by its own future. A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.

Is this idea whack? Opinion is divided. Overbye is reminded of a famous quote from an earlier scientific debate about quantum theory:

As Niels Bohr… once told a colleague: “We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct.”

More Than Secrets Leaking at CERN

Providing an anticlimactic fizzle to its controversial launch, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider has proven dangerous only to itself. Operations have twice been interrupted by mechnical problems, and the latest will take months to repair. 

The world’s largest particle collider  malfunctioned within hours of its launch, but the media was led to believe there had been a successful startup and CERN did not admit the truth until September 18, after the Associated Press called asking about rumors of trouble.

In a statement Thursday, the European Organization for Nuclear Research reported for the first time that a 30-ton transformer that cools part of the collider broke, forcing physicists to stop using the atom smasher just a day after starting it up last week.

Then the day after that revelation, September 19, the LHC administered itself the coup de grace, suffering a major failure. The CERN press release explains:

During commissioning (without beam) of the final LHC sector (sector 34) at high current for operation at 5 TeV, an incident occurred at mid-day on Friday 19 September resulting in a large helium leak into the tunnel. Preliminary investigations indicate that the most likely cause of the problem was a faulty electrical connection between two magnets, which probably melted at high current leading to mechanical failure. CERN’s strict safety regulations ensured that at no time was there any risk to people.

A full investigation is underway, but it is already clear that the sector will have to be warmed up for repairs to take place. This implies a minimum of two months down time for LHC operation. For the same fault, not uncommon in a normally conducting machine, the repair time would be a matter of days.

Follow LHC’s cooldown status at the official site.

Update 9/23/2008: CNN reports that repairs to the LHC will keep it inactive until next spring.

Let the Bosons Fly High!

“World ends, film at eleven!” Look for that promo Wednesday night if the critics’ frightening predictions come true when CERN starts the first injection of a beam through the Large Hadron Collider a few hours from now, at 9:30 Central European Time.

The Geneva-based particle physics laboratory has stressed in a peer-reviewed report the soundness and safety of the project. But the media’s morbid fascination with the possibility of – almost a longing for – a disaster has prompted one service to offer live video of the LHC startup, while CERN has promised journalists satellite uplink will be provided throughout the day by Eurovision.

But when it comes to discussing the Large Hadron Collider, quite in contrast to other scientific controversies of the day, say, global warming, the left and right wings of the sf community are surprisingly in agreement that there’s little reason to get in an uproar.

Cheryl Morgan scoffed at “A Nation of Doomsayers” while pointing out The Guardian’s silly opinion poll that poses two extreme choices: “Are you worried the atom smasher will unwittingly destroy the planet or is that scientifically illiterate, millenarian twaddle – which is it to be?”

Similarly, Jerry Pournelle showed how unworried he is by ironically commenting:

Well, according to a German chemist it won’t matter since they will create a Quasar in the center of the Earth, and in a few years we’ll see light beams coming out of the oceans, after which we are all doomed.

The most reassuring prediction I’ve found about the imminent startup of LHC was Stephen Hawking’s $100 bet with Professor Gordy Kane, of Michigan University, over the existence of the Higgs boson. Not because Hawking might win, but because he clearly expects to be around to settle the bet.